Movie Review: Kill Bill

by Charles Miller on October 16, 2003

If you're working in Hollywood, and planning on making it big with stylish gratuitous violence, give up now. You'll never top Kill Bill.

Kill Bill has been widely criticised as the triumph of style over substance. The movie says nothing. Sure enough, they're right. This movie goes absolutely nowhere, but then again, neither does a rollercoaster. You go up and down, get spun around and exhilarated, but in the end you come to a stop exactly where you started.

Kill Bill is pastiche from start to finish: an homage to genre. It's an homage to genres where the plot and characters were always secondary to style and atmosphere, and where the script was always just that little bit hokey. Tarantino's script is pared back, abandoning the crafted dialogue that made his earlier movies. Instead, he adopts stilted, vaguely uncomfortable cliches that along with the Sergio Leone-inspired music capture almost perfectly the tone of the movies he is imitating. Like all in-jokes, I imagine if you're not part of it, it could be very grating.

The body-count in Kill Bill is high, but only so high as to be comparable to the Stallone or Schwarzennegar vehicles of the 80's. What Tarantino excels at, however, even delights in, is showing you that death is messy. Mr Orange, shot at the start of Reservoir Dogs, and spending the rest of the movie dying painfully. Marvin has his head blown off in Pulp Fiction, and somebody has to clean the blood and brains out of the car.

Nobody dies cleanly in Kill Bill. The bodies don't fall out of frame with a minimum of mess. They fountain unnatural torrents of blood and stay where they lie, or they crawl out desperately with what limbs they have remaining. There is no sanitized violence, there is only brutality. Tarantino's most impressive accomplishment with Kill Bill is that we're never allowed to identify with Uma Thurman's character's revenge. We're allowed to sympathise, sometimes, but the road she travels is so drenched in blood that we can't ride it with her.

If that doesn't bother you, go see this movie.

Previously: I've Got the Power!

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