Kill Bill Vol. 1 immediately stands out as a unique and interesting film which is both surprisingly enjoyable and totally insane. It’s super-stylish and super-arty, yet extremely gory and violent at the same time – quite an unusual mix. All in all, it probably offers a movie experience that is completely different from what you’re usually used to seeing.
One of the first things that needs to be established is that there really isn’t much story to Kill Bill. In short, a young assassin is practically beaten to death by her ex-colleagues at her wedding, and after recovering from this ordeal (well, physically at least) she goes on a vendetta against every single person who betrayed her in order to get revenge. Actually, that wasn’t really a summary of the plot at all: that was the whole thing. Kill Bill is definitely not about telling a story; it’s about film as a form of art, and exploring the most extreme expressions of that art.
The stylishness of Kill Bill cannot be overstated. It’s an incredibly colorful, vibrant, genuinely clever and witty movie. It’s also shockingly violent – and that may well turn off many potential viewers. However, despite how horrifically excessive some of the scenes can be, they’re still inescapably enthralling, and I found it extremely difficult to tear myself away from even the most stark and bloody moments.
It’s also undeniably a Quentin Tarantino movie, through and through. His distinct style of movie making and his wacky sense of humor permeate it from top to bottom. The direction, production, cinematography and sound are all absolutely fantastic. The actors’ performances are almost irrelevant; its the stunt-doubles who should get most of the credit here.
The most curious thing about Tarantino’s direction is how he parodies countless movie cliches while at the same time reveling in those very things that he is parodying. The fight scenes in particular are ridiculously over-the-top (picture one lone samurai effortlessly fighting off hundreds of evil ninjas), and Tarantino captures and expresses their absurdity brilliantly – but he doesn’t do this to belittle these things but rather to celebrate them. It’s clear that Tarantino absolutely loves the craziness of the things that he is exaggerating, and the way he presents them makes it very hard to disagree with him.
My one gripe with these fights scenes is that they go on a bit too long. Tarantino obviously put a lot of thought into their pacing, and he injects plenty of radical changes of direction into them to keep things interesting, but I feel that he sometimes waits just a little too long; a couple of times during the movie you’re left sitting there saying “Ok, I get it already, let’s move on to something new.”
Perhaps the most impressive achievement of Kill Bill is how it blends several completely different genres into one single movie – and how this eccentric concoction manages to be coherently entertaining. You’d think that kung fu and spaghetti western would never mix, but when Tarantino does it here it simply works.
Kill Bill is a movie which revels in film as an art form. And, while this is its greatest strength, it’s also its greatest weakness. In this, it’s something akin to modern art: you can appreciate and be incredibly entertained by what the artist has done, yet at another level fail to find it completely satisfying. Kill Bill is art for art’s sake, and that raises the serious question of whether such a purpose ever really provides sufficient justification for making a movie. Kill Bill, in my opinion, makes an incredibly compelling case that it is. But, at the same time, that lingering doubt – that lack of a less self-indulgent purpose – prevents it from ever reaching perfection. Nonetheless, this is a fantastic movie, and, if you’re not put off by the crazy violence, it will definitely be one you will thoroughly enjoy watching.