Saturday, October 25, 2003

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (IMDB) (Netflix)
The cinematic descendent of movie violence stylist Sam Peckinpah has to be Quentin Tarantino, whose Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction made him the "it boy" director in the early-mid 90s. After some lesser efforts, he went on silent running for six years, but is making up for the absence with this two-parter. Volume One opens with Uma Thurman as the only survivor of a wedding-day hit squad, wanting payback and traveling the world to get it against Vivica A. Fox, Lucy Liu and the aforementioned Bill.

Peckinpah used slow motion and bits of hamburger in the fake blood squibs to give The Wild Bunch that little extra tingle, and Tarantino takes him one further, the predominant element being spurting, lots of spurting. Certainly not most people's brand of vodka, but there's also a fair amount of comedic leavening, and a heavy Japanese martial arts tone that somehow keeps this from becoming Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Thurman is one tough cookie, carrying all the action against a horde of Yakusa swordsfolk, and conveying an intensity heretofore lacking in her portfolio. Where Reservoir Dogs was overly sadistic and squirm-inducing, "Bill" is intentionally cartoonish, but still very messy, and the bouncing between gore and laughs is mostly, but not always, successful.

Those who abhore graphic violence won't be mollified by any of this analysis, nor should they, but the many who've acquired the thirst for "Q" will be happy he's back, and in form. Just don't ask for much in thematic take-aways.