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Kill Bill: Volume 1  (2003)


Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, David Carradine, Sonny Chiba

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Rating: R

Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Release Date: April 13, 2004
Review posted: April 20, 2004

Spoilers: None


Reviewed by Dennis Landmann




Four years after taking a bullet in the heat at her own wedding, The Bride (Thurman) awakens from a coma and decides it's time for paypack... with a vengeance! Having been gunned down by her former boss (Carradine) and his deadly squad of international assassins, it's a kill-or-be-killed fight she didn't start but is determined to finish.




For reasons unknown, I didn't see Kill Bill: Vol. 1 in theaters, and I'm sure the experience of watching it in an auditorium is much grander than in one's living room, but regardless of that I thoroughly enjoyed Quentin Tarantino's first new film in seven years. What makes the film enjoyable, as well as rewarding and visually exciting, is its hardcore violence, which seems more gratuitous than for harsh effect, signature Tarantino dialogue, its story and theme of revenge, the action, and acting by all the principals.


In true Tarantino fashion, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 tells its story in present time and through flashbacks, as well as taking place in multiple locations, including gorgeous-looking Hong Kong. Fused with influences ranging from Sergio Leone to the old kung-fu films, Tarantino and cinematographer Robert Richardson give the film as flashy, Western-like look. This is also helped by Sally Menke's proficient editing job.



Fight sequences, as advised by Yuen Woo-Ping, are hardcore and photographed with great visual sense. The prime example is the film's extended climax at the House of Blue Leaves, a roughly 20-minute sequence with The Bride fighting through a barrage of bodyguards before taking on O-Ren Ishi (Lucy Liu), one of the Viper Squad assassins. Supporting performances are all good, mainly Vivica A. Fox and Daryl Hannah who make fine impressions as the other assassins. Michael Madsen and David Carradine don't turn up in here, however both Sonny Chiba and Gordon Liu make delightful appearances as Hattori Hanzo and Crazy 88 member, respectively.


Originally one film, only half of the story appears in Volume 1, but it's interesting to follow The Bride on her mission of revenge. While she only completes half of it by the end of this film, the film carries enough story for Uma Thurman to hold a commanding screen presence. The film does not end with "to be continued," which was the right move by Tarantino, it ends with a shot of The Bride's kill list, an enticing way to get the viewer to want to see Volume 2.




Miramax presents Kill Bill in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colors are bright, crisp, and smooth. Dark tones and black levels are appropriately deep, while the print image looks very nice. Image quality is pretty good despite bits of grain and several tiny flaws. Overall, a really nice visual presentation.





Miramax presents Kill Bill in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound. Sound effects are nicely reinforced by the surrounds, and the rear speakers emit audio with good force and balance. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, and the music is very loud as it should be. The front speakers do a terrific job, and overall this presentation is pretty good. I wasn't able to test the 5.1 DTS Digital Surround track, but I'm sure it's at least just as good as the DD track. A French dub is available.




The only substantial bonus material here is The Making of Kill Bill Vol. 1 (22:05), a documentary filled with interviews, film clips, and behind-the-scenes footage. It reveals some nice tidbits and stories from the production. The topics the docu covers are of interest, but they're not very in-depth.


Next is about six minutes worth of bonus musical numbers by The 5, 6, 7, 8's, the band featured in Chapter Five of the film. They perform the songs "I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield" and "I'm Blue." I didn't get anything out of this. Rounding out the extras, sad to say, are a number of Tarantino trailers, including Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 1 teaser, Kill Bill Vol. 1 bootleg trailer, and Kill Bill Vol. 2 teaser.



A 4-page insert lists scene selections, specifications for the special editions of Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, and an article called "'Bill' The Killer Thriller" by Andy Klein of Citybeat. A second insert is included, featuring pictures of Kill Bill action figures and various items associated with the film, including Pussy Wagon keychains, lighters, tin lunchboxes, shooters, and flasks.


The 111-minute feature is organized into nineteen chapters. The disc comes in an Amaray keepcase.




Kill Bill: Vol. 1 marks a welcome and exciting return for Tarantino, the director delivers action, humor, and thrills. It's pretty violent, and I think it's mainly gratuitous, but the revenge plot, the script, and the acting are what really propel the film. Video/audio quality is very good, but the abundance of extras, despite a semi-interesting making-of, is disappointing. Therefore, this disc comes only recommended. A special edition will come out eventually.




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