Wednesday, May 24, 2006

KILL BILL MOVIE REVIEW


CAST: UMA THRUMAN, DAVID CARRADINE, LUCY LIU, MICHAEL MADSEN, VIVICIA.A.FOX, DARYL HANNAH
DIRECTOR: QUENTIN TARANTINO
RATING: VOL1: ****
VOL2: ***
OVERALL: ***1/2

RUNTIME: VOL1: 111 min.
VOL2: 136 min.

GENRE: ACTION, KUNG-FU, WESTERN, REVENGE

I want to clear it right at the outset that KILL BILL VOL1 and KILL BILL VOL2 should not have been two volumes at all. I would beg to question the artistic judgment of Miramax studios and Quentin Tarantino with whose consent the single entity was sliced into two pieces right at the eleventh hour. This obviously leads to the conclusion that there are a lot of padding up scenes thrown in to make for cumulative 4 hours rather than 200 min. which the original piece was supposed to be. It would obviously not be taut, a hallmark of Quentin Tarantino movies. QT movies never slag. They have a very smooth flow matched only by James Cameron and off late by Manoj Night Shyamalan in their lucidity.
But still I chose to reserve my judgment till I saw both the volumes. So what follows is the review of the two movies as I saw them.

VOLUME 1:
VOL.1 as it says is Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film and this is his most unique of them all. RESERVOIR DOGS, PULP FICTION and JACKIE BROWN all dealt with a crime and were predominantly urban in nature. But KILL BILL VOL.1 is a comic book action movie, the sort of which never attempted by Hollywood. It is silly and gorgeous at the same time. VOL.1 is Quentin Tarantino’s tribute to the Kung-Fu movies and what a fine one at that.
As far as the plot is concerned there is precious little that exists in VOL.1 at least. Uma Thurman is Black Mamba aka The Bride as QT and Ms. Thurman would like to call the character. She is a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. But she and her would-be husband are gunned down in a chapel at El Paso for some reason that is supposed to be uncovered in VOL.2. She is also pregnant with a baby girl at the time of the massacre. The leader of the gang who goes by the name of Bill puts a bullet into her head and The Bride ends up in a coma for four years. She comes out of the coma after 4 years and goes on a rampage of revenge. How she does that is VOL1. and possibly a huge chunk of VOL.2 as well.
The story as is the case with all Quentin Tarantino movies is not told in linear fashion. It is in all non-linear not just to make the non-existent plot a bit more exciting or for any artistic reasons. I have always had the question in the back of my mind while watching these flashback movies that how can the narrator possibly know all those inner details. It happened in TITANIC and a lot of other movies. But the narration in KILL BILL VOL.1 is non-linear for precisely that reason I guess. Any doubt as to how the narrator knows all that is hence removed by it. That is where the genius of Quentin Tarantino as a story writer and screenwriter comes to the fore. That particular angle is always ignored in the name of movies.
But it is the presentation in VOL.1 that takes the cake. Violence was never so beautiful. The dialogues, rather the one-liners seem straight out of a superhero comic book, only that it is an adult superhero comic book with some offensive language.
Quentin Tarantino is a master at presenting seemingly regular plots in a novel, interesting way as only he can. He has this knack of paying attention to small details when most storytellers ignore them. His screenplays are one of a kind with fantastic dialogues and quotable one-liners. Although there aren’t too many of them in VOL.1 it still shows how smart Quentin Tarantino is at his game. And his nod to all kung-fu movies is a treat to watch. Most notable is Uma Thurman’s yellow costume that was worn famously by Bruce Lee. Tarantino also tries his hand at perfecting the long-tracking camera shot most notably used by Martin Scorsese. And it is quite safe to say that he more than succeeds in using it effectively.
But it is not all Quentin Tarantino that is there in the movie. It is not just smart direction and screenplay that hold this silly plot together. In fact the biggest strength of the movie is Uma Thurman. She has given us a lady superhero much like Sigourney Weaver gave us Ripley a couple of decades back. And the former is much cooler than the latter. A lot of actresses have tried their hands at playing such tough characters but they have either been failed by stupid direction or their own physical and acting flaws. But Ms. Thurman is supremely fit and is more than up for the masterful fight sequences. Ms. Thurman inhabits the role and lends a credibility and a personality to a role that otherwise would have been hackneyed and one dimensional in most other’s hands. It is believed that Ms. Thurman and Mr. Tarantino had conceived the character and the movie way back during the production of PULP FICTION. It might as well be true as Ms. Thurman knows the length and breadth of the character. Her body postures and her movements are swift and economical just like a trained martial acts actor.
Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver is menacing. She appears for just one sequence but creates quite an impression.
Lucy Liu as O-Ren-Ishi does a wonderful departure from her role in the CHARLIE’S ANGELS. She looks every bit a powerful boss. She plays the role of a typical villain with a kind of grace I have seldom seen.
A couple of scenes could have been edited to make the movie a bit tighter. And the Pussy Wagon idea should have been dropped because it looks cheap in a movie that is otherwise quite high principled. The plot itself is quite high principled and Tarantino should move away from overindulgence of this type.
The movie is one hell of an experience. Tarantino has an eye for style rivaled today only by Michael Mann. Of course Mann is subtler than Tarantino who is louder (not bad) like Sergio Leone. One of the sequences that involve the shot of O-Ren-Ishi and her bodyguards walking towards the camera towards a passage makes for one of the most stylish I have seen in recent years.
The background score is all Tarantino. It is a mixture of 70s songs but the use of them at specific points make for an incredible experience. Mr. Tarantino is one of the best exponents of background score and is right in the mould of Martin Scorsese.
I am eagerly waiting for VOL.2


VOLUME 2:
Now that I have seen VOL 2 I feel more convinced and vindicated than ever before that it should have been a singular movie. It would have definitely made for an experience never before witnessed in movie history. And VOL. 2 that is at once better and weaker of the two would have been one heel of a tribute to the westerns much like its predecessor was to the kung-fu movies.
Just imagine a 3-hour movie where the first half would be VOL.1 with all its kinetic energy- a fitting tribute to the kung-fu movies and the second half, a bit slower, more emphasis on characters and structurally similar to Leone’s westerns particularly ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.
VOL.2 is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imaginations. Rather it is a good movie. But it is not a movie you would associate with Quentin Tarantino. The main point is that it could have been a memorable one had it been tighter and if I had my way, the second half of KILL BILL. You could point out scenes that have padded up the movie to make up for the extra one hour owing to the division. One can easily make out that it is this volume that would have experienced more time in the editing room had both the movies been a single entity.
And if is intended to be a tribute to the spaghetti westerns I daresay that it is a very sorry one at that. It is quite good on its own but if you consider it as a tribute to the great Leone spaghetti westerns that Tarantino idolizes so much he has failed quite miserably.
VOL.2 begins with an Uma Thurman monologue that serves the purpose of reminding as to what happened in the previous volume. She continues on her roaring rampage of revenge and ends up killing Budd (Michael Madsen), Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) and finally Bill. There is a final revelation that concerns Black Mamba’s daughter, her relationship with Bill and her real name. At the end of it they all account to nothing.
This volume in its entirety right down to its background score wants to be a tribute to Sergio Leone’s westerns. But all it ends up being is a tired copy of the elements that made a Leone movie special without any essence or soul. There are a lot of sequences that should have been given the scissors. Particularly the sequence with Michael Madsen in a bar does not fit with the whole saga’s structure. It would have been far better if Tarantino had given the Elle Driver character a similar footage and shown more of her confrontation with Tai Pei Mei. It would have given the movie a more sinister look and frankly speaking the Elle Driver character is infinitely more fun than the dull Budd. The sequences involving the burial of Uma Thurman could have been tighter.
But what the movie lacks in pace makes up for in emotion. There is immense depth of character. This movie is exceedingly emotional to a point where it gets melodramatic. The best part is the climax that has been exceptionally handled by Quentin Tarantino. In fact the last half hour of the movie is the best part of the movie. Most noteworthy is the sequence in which Ms. Thurman’s character comes to know that she is pregnant and a female assassin congratulates her. The whole conception of the scene has Tarantino’s written all over it.
Uma Thurman carries on from where she left in VOL.1. Needless to say she is incredible in the part. I would like her to get an Academy Award nomination for best actress for her turn in both the volumes.
Michael Madsen as Budd seems to be a sobered up version of Mr. Orange in RESERVOIR DOGS. His drooling dialogue delivery is a treat to watch. But his character isn’t and there lies the problem.
Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver is evil personified. She has more screen time compared to the first volume and she makes best use of it. I just couldn’t have enough of her. I sincerely feel that her turn at the school of Tai Pei Mei should also have been shown so that you could have more fun and more of Daryl Hannah as well.
But the star of VOL.2 is David Carradine. His Bill is more grayish than an out and out villain. He brings a touch of royalty and coolness to Bill. His explanation of the mythology of the comic book is just awesome. I hope he gets and Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Quentin Tarantino has this knack of picking up actors from wilderness. He did it with John Travolta in PULP FICTION and he has done it here again with David Carradine.
VOL.2 is the most volatile of all Quentin Tarantino movies. It is brilliant in passages with extremely dull in some. And the problem is all with the editing.
The screenplay is surprisingly not as smart as any of the other Quentin Tarantino movies. Sequences occur mainly to provide reasons for the earlier ones. After a stage the movie tends to become predictable. I just cannot help but harp over the fact no attention was paid to the Elle Driver character nor was there any detailing of the murder of Tai Pei Mei. It is only because of the last half hour that the movie holds itself and succeeds in making an impact.
Quentin Tarantino’s attempt at making a movie similar in structure to a Sergio Leone’s western, I am sorry to say has failed miserably. He uses background score from those movies including a lot of stuff of Ennio Morricone. As far as I can say, the movie intends to be similar to ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. But VOL.2 just becomes a pale shadow of it without inheriting any soul from it. And yeah what was the whole point of showing a drag of a sequence that involved the conversation with Bill’s father.
I am just disappointed that the two movies should have been one. After watching VOL.1 I was really looking forward to VOL.2. But I was disappointed.

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