Years ago there was a Mad magazine cartoon about a man obsessed with audio technology. He went to great pains to find the most advanced turntable with the most intricate adjustments. He acquired the best speakers and calculated with the precision of a rocket scientist exactly where to place them. And when he had installed all the finest equipment and determined the precise place in his living room where the stereophonic sound would be the most perfectly balanced, he put a record on the exchanger, took his seat in bliss and listened in rapture to a recording of Three Blind Mice. That's how I feel about writer-director Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol. 1. It's got all the bells and whistles cinematic technology can deliver. But it hasn't got a story remotely worth watching.
Featuring a character devised by Tarantino and his star Uma Thurman, Kill Bill (there'll be a Vol. 2 that I'll be trying to miss in 2004) is a revenge flick about a female assassin (Thurman) out to kill all her former associates. In recent times our heroine is known as The Bride (code name: Black Mamba). We may presume that at some point she had a regular name, but if so we never learn it. The Bride used to belong to an organization of killers called the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad which was run by a man named Bill (David Carradine, chosen, of course, because he starred on TV's Kung-Fu), a faceless fellow who fathered the child The Bride was carrying on the day she was to marry some other fellow that we never actually meet. The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DVAS, get it?) was a kind of Charlie's Angels operation, an assemblage of vicious hit-babes. We don't know who all they assassinated in times gone by. But as our story begins, they turn on their own and assassinate The Bride's entire wedding party. We'd kind of like to know why, but that's a little motivational detail Tarantino couldn't be bothered by.
Well, The Bride takes a 9mm slug to the left temple, but has the bad grace to survive it, and when she wakes up after a four-year coma, she's in a really foul mood. Tarantino has always liked to fool around with chronology, so here we get to see her last victim before we flash back to her first. Like absolutely everything else in this movie, this time rearrangement has no discernible purpose. Anyway, first, that is last, The Bride attacks Vernita Green (code name: Copperhead) (Vivica Fox) in her quiet Pasadena home. These two beauties really get after it. They kick and punch and slam each other around until Vernita's living room looks like a fraternity house on Ash Wednesday morning. Of course, when Vernita's 4-year-old daughter comes home from school, they stop knifing each other to coo over the child for a while. This is supposed to be comic, I presume, but it elicited not a single ha from the audience around me.
When Vernita is satisfactorily dispatched, we hop in the time machine to travel to Okinawa back when The Bride got her samurai sword. This episode is so boring I fell asleep trying to remember it. Next we learn the back story on The Bride's next (that is, first) target, O-Ren Ishii (code name: Cotton Mouth) (Lucy Liu). And for reasons known only to Tarantino's reference-obsessed mind, we learn it in anime. You see, young people are said to think that anime is cool, and anime is from Japan, or at least it started there, and O-Ren is the crime queen of Tokyo, so shouldn't her story be told in anime?!? It's not clear when O-Ren stopped being just a regular DVAS hit-babe and went into crime rule, but she's in charge of all the Japanese bad guys when The Bride comes looking for her.
And then comes the film's set action piece with all its references to martial arts movies from times gone by. For all I know (though I certainly don't care), every move The Bride makes is a nod to one by Bruce Lee and his Hong Kong heirs whose names I don't and won't ever know. Before finally getting around to a one-on-one with O-Ren and its concluding reference to Hannibal, The Bride has to kill O-Ren's army. Elsewhere in the world people shoot each other with Uzis, but in Tarantino World they fight with samurai swords, and since The Bride has the best one, she gets to win. By the end of the battle, the restaurant where fighting takes place is a charnel house of severed human body parts, arms, legs, hands, feet and heads. Yum.
I know other critics are praising this movie, but as far as I am concerned, the emperor ain't wearing so much as a sumo wrestler's thong.
- Where's my Uzi: The Bride (Uma Thurman) kills enemies the old-fashioned way in Quentin Tarantino's mess of a movie, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 i>.