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Kill Bill Vol.1: Film Review

While not the meatiest out of Quentin Tarantino’s movies, Kill Bill Vol.1 shows simplicity can be a merit when supported by highly memorable style.

If nothing else, you have to give props to the movie for being honest with its title.

Directed by Hollywood’s most famous foot fetishist Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill Vol.1 (2003) stars Uma Thurman as Beatrix Kiddo, also known as the legendary killer Black Mamba. One day, she tries to leave that bloody life behind with her unborn child. Unfortunately, her former boss and lover Bill (David Carradine) crashes her wedding and beats her to near death. Filled with copious ill will at the betrayal, she hunts down her former associates with her considerable skill to spill any blood necessary until she fulfills her mission to, indeed, kill Bill.

To be honest, I wondered for the longest time what I should even write in this review. Because let’s get this out of the way right now: Kill Bill is not a complicated movie. Sure, maybe you’ll find some 4 hour long video essays breaking down how the films are actually subtle analogies to the struggles women face in life, but at the end of the day, those interpretations are largely superfluous to your enjoyment. Kill Bill basically boils down to a former killer out for revenge.

That’s not to say Kill Bill’s story is uninteresting by any means. Simple doesn’t equal bad. It is very easy to sympathize with Beatrix – I imagine having you and your would-be child’s lives threatened would instill some amount of bloodlust – and the variety of antagonists she clashes with along the way all have distinct personalities or settings to them that make them memorable.

But of course, the real meat of Kill Bill Vol.1 is Tarantino’s B-grade style. On paper, this may seem like a pretty silly movie. Beatrix is basically Bruce Lee with a katana, wounds spew blood more vigorously than my mouth after chugging spoiled milk, and there are martial arts techniques to make your heart explode. The films are filled with over the top elements in acting, visuals, and soundtrack; I mean, the movie even ditches live action for a 2D animated style in the middle.

loud and clear reviews Kill Bill Vol. 1 (Miramax)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (Miramax)

And yet, all of this is very much intentional. Those weird elements are homages to old B-grade movies and their clichés, such as a group of enemies attacking a few at a time. However, the characters are all taking this bizarre world 100% seriously. For them, dramatic zoom-ins accompanied by siren cues are expected for face offs. And that discrepancy between what’s silly for us and what’s normal for the characters gives off a very unique atmosphere that is creative but doesn’t alienate you to the point of taking you out of the experience.

What helps is that this style complements some genuinely good action. Angles are wide and clear, the camera is steady, and the fight choreography is easy to understand. The penultimate action sequence in Vol.1 is especially a highlight, where Beatrix faces off against 88 assassins in a no holds barred katana battle. The visuals can get downright beautiful at times too, as in the same 1 vs 88 battle, we get a scene where fighters are shown in silhouettes, making it feel right out of a graphic novel.

And the over the top style contributes heavily to the films’ memorability. I mean, think about how many times “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” has been played in meme videos. Whether you’re laughing at it or laughing with it, it sticks with you. There’s a reason why the kitsch style – overly eccentric or seemingly low-grade art – has persisted for so long, and these movies marinate in kitschness.

I realize this is a pretty short review, but again, there’s really not much to say about Kill Bill. There is, however, plenty to experience. I may not consider it the best Tarantino movie, but it is the one I’ve come back to the most over the years for just a simple yet uniquely fun time. In fact, I recommend this as a good entry level Tarantino movie, to familiarize yourself with his style. And of course, his foot fetish too.

Kill Bill Vol.1 is out now on digital and on demand. Read our list of all Quentin Tarantino films ranked from worst to best!

The Films of Quentin Tarantino, Ranked – Loud And Clear Reviews
We’ve ranked the films of Quentin Tarantino from worst to best in the celebration of our Tarantino spotlight this summer.
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