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IN SHORT: A piping-hot pile, part one. [Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexual content. 104 minutes]
Fans of the Shaw Bros. of Hong Kong will find Kill Bill to be better than sliced bread. Ditto fans of Japanese anime-- crude, incredibly violent animation; the gutter speak dialog of blaxploitation flicks and a one season teevee flop adapting The Green Hornet (which did little more than get Bruce Lee to our shores). Everyone else? There's a new way to spell PRETENTIOUS CLAPTRAP WASTE OF TIME FILMMAKING and it is Tarantino.
We had some more colorful words to use, but we know how to control our self. Tarantino lets loose with all the joy of a fourteen year old boy (probably a ten year old by now) who has just learned the joys of four letter words and utterly isolates anyone who didn't worship at the altar of cheap movies made in the cash starved 1970s.
We hit our demographic prime in the 70s, folks. We know of what we rant.
If you are going to make a loving tribute to something, it sure helps if the people you are making it for have the slightest idea what you are doing. We have always said you shouldn't have to know the Source Material to get the film and that being the case, the ultra-violence in Kill Bill -- blood spurts like fountains in Las Vegas -- outdoes anything Kubrick managed in A Clockwork Orange and gets in the way of anything even resembling characterization and story (and those are minimal). To wit:
On her wedding day, a murderous quartet slays The Bride aka "Arlene Machiavelli" (Uma Thurman), the entire wedding party -- guests, clergy, everybody -- and leaves the Bride comatose, with a bullet in her head. Having nothing better to do with her, an orderly at the local hospital rents out her bedridden body to one and all, for $75 a 20 minute pop. When she comes out of coma, four years later, she goes on a killing spree, to take out Bill (David Carradine, who appears for about seven seconds and won't be seen again until Vol. Two) and the underlings that carried out his orders.
That's it. That's all there is to Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, an utter waste of time that does nothing more than give special effects supervisors room to strut their stuff. We're talking decapitations, amputations and as much sword fight damage as can be crammed into the film's running time. And since he's got little better to do, filmmaker Tarantino drops a big censoring beep into his soundtrack every time the given name of star Uma Thurman's character is spoken. That's at least twice -- the second bleep ensures that the audience knows the first one wasn't a mistake made up in the projection booth. We can't begin to form the words to properly express our contempt for a writer who cannot find the words and the director (both the same man in this case) who falls back on sound effect nonsense especially when his script is already up to its neck in four letter words. But we'll try.
In Kill Bill, Tarantino can't even manage to write a story which takes out all four murderers, plus Bill, in a reasonable amount of time, necessitating Part Two next February. The kill squad is called DiVAS (take that VH1) a subdivision of VIPER or the Japanese yakuza -- Kill Bill is so full of itself that we ceased to see the logic in the sub-parts after the second or third removal of a body part. Daryl Hannah and Michael Madsen get their due in Vol. Two. Lucy Liu (as head of the Yakuza -- so what the hell is Bill???) and Vivica A. Fox (a DiVa assassin, just like Thurman) get taken care of now, one in a blaxploitation homage and the other in lovingly photographed battle scene set against fake Japanese snow. Each major scene is given a chapter heading, as if to say "here's the next important part!". Whoop de yada yada doo. Yes, Thurman's character narrates elaborate back stories about characters though there is no one to tell us where she learned her initial skills with a sword. She does get a teacher in the second act, allowing Tarantino to give a part to a legend of those Hong Kong action flicks (Sonny Chiba) he so loves.
He does manage to sneak five laughs into his excuse for a script but in his effort to create an homage to the chop sockey films of the 1970s, he effectively leaves no room for those of us who couldn't give a chop about the sockey.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Kill Bill, he would have paid . . .
Normally, we'd give a minimum buck for the cinematography and five jokes. The former falls into the totally pretentious feel of he flick. The latter kept us from walking out, as each time we thought Tarantino had righted the ship. Nope. No credit either.
"Arlene" isn't the Bride's real name. She used it, once, and we include it to shut up all the Tarantino-philes who will inevitably accuse us of not paying attention.
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