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Kill Bill Volume One

Kill Bill Volume One (2003) is a self-indulgent fan film/love letter to the grindhouse classics of spaghetti westerns, Giallo thrillers, and the dubbed chop-socky that Quentin Tarantino loves. But is self-indulgence a bad thing? Only when it's not entertaining. And though this picture is an amoral, over-the-top, blood-and-guts spectacle, Tarantino knows how to punch an audience's buttons, and he plays to his groundlings like a pro. After a shocking black-and-white opening that has a blood-stained and pregnant Uma Thurman telling an unseen assailant that it's his baby, right before she gets shot in the head, the first film is broken into five chapters that — like most Tarantino films — are told out of sequence. The unnamed Bride used to be a member of the "Deadly Viper Assassination Squad ("The DiVAS") with five other people: O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Lui), aka Cottonmouth; Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), aka Copperhead; Bill's brother Budd (Michael Madsen), aka Sidewinder; Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah), aka California Mountain Snake; and Bill himself (David Carradine, who's kept off screen in this installment). It was these people who did this to her. Though she's left comatose, The Bride survives, and Bill figures she's owed the chance to wake up before they try to kill her again. She wake up and realizes that her baby is gone, and four years have passed, so to get her revenge, she treks to Japan to find the one member of the DiVAS she's sure she can track down. This person is O-Ren Ishii, whose history is recounted in a stunning anime sequence. The Bride also goes to get a sword from master craftsman Hattori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba), who has stopped making swords because of his relationship with Bill. After tracing O-Ren's rise to the head of the Yakuza, the film (much like Volume 2) makes its last chapter the longest for a showdown spectacular wherein The Bride faces off with O-Ren's numerous underlings: the Crazy 88 killers, O-Ren's lawyer Sofie Fatale (Julie Dreyfuss), masked assassin Johnny Mo (Gordon Lui), and the insane schoolgirl-outfitted Go-Go Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama), before getting a chance at O-Ren herself. As plots go, it's a pretty simple story of revenge in which The Bride undoubtedly is going to succeed (at least in this Volume); but like most of Tarantino's films, and most great movies in general, it's not the story but how it's told. Yes, it's is a celebration of cinematic violence, but it has no pretensions to be anything else, and it works because it's just trying to please its audience and has no pretensions otherwise. Miramax presents Kill Bill Volume 1 in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS audio. The sound-design work on this film is incredible, and it's probably best watched as loud as possible. Extras include "The Making of Kill Bill" and "The '5,6,7,8s' Perform 'I Walk like Jayne Mansfield' and 'I'm Blue.'" There's also a Tarantino trailer gallery, which includes trailers for all the films he's directed, the teasers for both Volume 1 and Volume 2, and the "bootleg." Keep-case.
—DSH

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