Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, Vol. 1 is trash for connoisseurs. From his opening gambit (including a "Shaw-Scope" logo and gaudy '70s-vintage "Our Feature Presentation" title card) to his cliffhanger finale (a teasing lead-in to 2004's Vol. 2), Tarantino pays loving tribute to grindhouse cinema, specifically the Hong Kong action flicks and spaghetti Westerns that fill his fervent brain--and this frequently breathtaking movie--with enough cinematic references and cleverly pilfered soundtrack cues to send cinephiles running for their reference books.
Everything old is new again in Tarantino's humor-laced vision: he steals from the best while injecting his own oft-copied, never-duplicated style into what is, quite simply, a revenge flick, beginning with the near-murder of the Bride (Uma Thurman), pregnant on her wedding day and left for dead by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (or DiVAS)--including Lucy Liu and the unseen David Carradine (as Bill)--who become targets for the Bride's lethal vengeance. Culminating in an ultraviolent, ultra-stylized tour-de-force showdown, Tarantino's fourth film is either brilliantly (and brutally) innovative or one of the most blatant acts of plagiarism ever conceived. Either way, it's hyperkinetic eye-candy from a passionate film-lover who clearly knows what he's doing.
It's quite apparent from Kill Bill Volume One that Quentin Tarantino has not lost any of his love for pulp fiction. From the opening black and white sequence of Uma Thurman to the final almost touching final fight scene with Lucy Liu, Kill Bill has the makings of an epic cult film. I say cult film because I'm sure the movie will polarize audiences. Tarantino takes some big risks with his film genre bending and mixing. Most of them pay off. The action sequences that were talked about are actually not as sustained as rumoured. In fact, it really shows a sign of maturity in Tarantino that the action takes breaks so the audience can take a breath before the characters start in on each other again. It makes the characters more human, too, since even those in the best shape could not withstand these constant pounding without taking a short breather.
The story? It's a revenge plot, plain and simple, and as pulpy as those get. Plus the actors are all quite up to that task. They all go about chewing up the scenery, which fits quite nicely into the film as it's set up. It's good to see Thurman again. Here she takes the lead as The Bride with much vigor and attitude because The Bride is pissed. Her old assassin team has killed her entire wedding party and even tried to kill her, but didn't quite finish the job. Now she wants to get even. And it's great fun. With over the top fight scenes with heads and limbs flying to bodies squirting blood like hoses, Tarantino is wearing his cheesy gore film influences on his sleeve. There are several film genres here and the best is the back story on Lucy Liu's character when the film switches to Japanese anime to set up the audience for the second half of the film which takes place in Japan. The dialogue is more classy in this half of the film only between Thurman and Liu. Instead of using the F-word (as Tarantino is want to do in his films), they shoot more witty barbs at each other as if there was once great respect between them. This sets up a scene at the end of their fight that is actually touching and makes The Bride human instead of just a killing machine.
Of course, the film ends with a cliff hanger because Miramax didn't want to release a 3 hour plus film; however, with some creative editing it ends nicely and sets up for Kill Bill Volume Two. It gives hints about The Bride's husband, the baby she was carrying, how she was found after going into hiding and her relationship with Bill to name a few things. All of which are very soap opera, but a soap that is very stylized and willing to take chances. None of this would have worked had it not been for Tarantino being self-aware he was just making a big piece of entertaining fluff. In other hands, it would have just been another over-wrought pile of junk. And even if Miramax cut it in two, it's nice to know that they have allowed out a film that tries to push the envelope.