Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Rewind: KILL BILL, Vol. 1...

...there's clearly a dearth of action films worth watching in theaters this summer but here's a joint that's worth going back and taking a peep at ...a couple of years ago, I recall having that happen to me while I was on a trip and had a couple of hours of free time so I shot over to a matinee to see Kill Bill...here's a review I wrote that got killed which I've posted below...I always thought some Ennio Morricone would've fit into the soundtrack (press play)

...Following an absence of just over half a decade Quentin Tarantino returns to the big screen directing Kill Bill, starring Uma Thurman. Originally intended to be an epic 3 hour flick, Kill Bill was cut into two volumes and this is the first. The Kill Bill tale is apparently an embellishment of the “Fox Force 5” pilot that Uma Thurman’s character referred to while talking to Vincent Vega in a Pulp Fiction scene. Unlike that aside, this celluloid yarn does not involve circus-freak knife throwers raised by vaudevillians – it’s a revenge tale shot in the spirit of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Enter the Dragon and La Femme Nikita. Thurman plays the main character dubbed “the bride,” a former member of a gang of female assassins called The DiVAS or Deadly Viper Assassination Squad – DIVAS... Each of the members has a code name derived from poisonous snakes e.g. Black Mamba, Sidewinder, California Mountain Snake, etc. Flashback four years, to where the story begins as Thurman (who has a bun in the oven at the time) wants to leave the assassin fold, get married and return to a simple domestic life like Michael Corleone wanted throughout The Godfather series. Unfortunately, the suspicious DiVAS see things differently and conspire to rub out the bride at her wedding. The vipers crash the ceremony and kill everyone in the room, including the preacher and the organist (or so they think) – the stage is set, start your engines.

Four years later, the bride regains consciousness in a hospital’s coma ward and starts to put 2 and 2 together while knocking on the metal plate in her head. Needless to say the clock on the wall displays payback time and after getting situated, Thurman starts on the trail to find her old partners who failed to tie the knot on her toe-tag. Plane ticket in hand, the bride soon embarks on a Tolkienesque search for a Japanese sword master named Hattori Hanzo – played by Sonny Chiba. In the land of the rising sun, Thurman carves a wide swath through scores of Yakuza-styled villains and femme fatales in a gang called the Crazy 88s. While there aren’t any Stealer’s Wheel ear-slicing dance routines (Reservoir Dogs), per se, gallons of blood are splattered on every dry surface in the vicinity. Tarantino’s affinity for gore and flying extremities becomes apparent as the straw-haired samurai opens up a can of Asahi-flavored whoop-ass in fight sequences filled-to-the-brim with eyeball gauging, flying axes, decapitations, foot/hand severing and scalping – all garnished with the entrails of anyone fool enough to stand in front of her blade. Although it might seem a tad too much info, knowing all of the above, will not spoil one iota of what is shown in the theater because the storyline is not a new one- it’s the telling that’s going to peel back your dome-piece.

...Let’s face it; Quentin Tarantino loves to emulate Ringo Lam and John Woo in his features. He also likes to inject 70’s-era film iconography which he serves up here via pop culture references (that yellow jump suit – Bruce Lee) and the scoring (laced with Ennio Marricone styled trumpets during crucial moments) - speaking of the latter, Sergio Leoni’s influence can be found all over the place too. Tarantino makes full use of the skip-around timeline he’s utilized so much in the past – but that’s neither here nor there. The real deal is not just in how this story is told but in how many ways, let me expound on that. Firstly, Tarantino invokes Japanese subtitles (once in Japan, the actors switch back and forth from Japanese to English quite fluidly, story wise) – Chiba rocks a hilarious Japanese slow-burn that would make Ralph Kramden / Fred Flintstone proud. Further, a portion of KB (O-Ren Ishii’s back story) is told in anime which is tight in and of itself – Star Blazers, anyone? The end all-be-all, however, must be the woman to woman fight sequences which go beyond any fetishistic bent by taking on-screen female-fisticuffs to a whole new level. Contrary to the Americanized wig-snatching and bra-pulling, the women in this flick go all out in a hand-to-hand stylee. Vivica A. Fox (AKA Cobra), gets souped up in a suburban living room brawl and Chiaki Kuriyama (Go Go Yubari) gives new meaning to the phrase “old ball and chain.” Hell, even Lucy Liu (AKA Cottonmouth) gets slap-happy and goes Shogun-postal in a boardroom meeting.

The Kill Bill cast went that extra mile to get the swordplay just right and it shows – remember, most of the main characters are played by novices to the action-genre and to be sure, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon it is not. Tarantino comes full circle with the scattershot off-the-wall approach to film making that freaked everybody out down in that pawnshop cellar back in ‘94. This story will continue in a couple of months- so don’t miss the boat. Check out the first installment on the big screen but you might want to wear gloves and goggles to block flying body parts.

...Last year I actually had a chance to rap with Lucy Liu and we touched on this film during the interview here's some of the final fight sequence where she and Uma get buck wild with the blades..

Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Vivica A. Fox, Lucy Liu, Chiaki Kuriyama, Sonny Chiba
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Studio: Paramount Pictures/Miramax/Band Apart
Rating: R

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