Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003)

Rating: C+

Dir: Quentin Tarantino
Star: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Sonny Chiba, Vivica A. Fox

My take on Tarantino’s career is that since his debut with Reservoir Dogs he has successively become more and more predictable and self-indulgent. Vol. 1 of his two parter Kill Bill does do a little to halt the decline but doesn’t do much more to return it to the ascendant. As Tarantino’s budgets have escalated his films have increasingly looked like shallow follies. Great looking and entertaining follies admittedly, but follies nonetheless. Kill Bill is a good example. The revenge plot is risible and clichéd beyond compare.

It’s also hard to empathise with the characters – a common theme in the former video store worker’s repertoire. The lead portrayed by Uma Thurman is, let’s just remind ourselves of this, a merciless killer who seeks revenge on those who tried to terminate her career early. His clunky device for seeking our supportive vote for The Bride is that she was pregnant when they tried to snuff her out – thus giving her and the audience some justification for what follows. You made your bed, love… As ever, then, the result is that the viewer is noticeably distanced from the characters and is very much an observer of events that have any personal resonance. Of course, visually, it looks the part, but that is just as well as the initial encounter between two supposed master killers is written more like a cat fight in Eastenders than the abrupt execution it would most likely be.

This is precisely where Tarantino and I part company. He sees no problem in excessive use of contrivance and cliché to tell his lightweight stories. For me, his heavy gloss and low substance approach merely emphasises a lack of intelligent writing and direction. Instead, what we have is archetypal 21st century American entertainment. As long as you are entertained and satisfied, as millions around the globe seem to be, then there will be no end to this style of entertainment and a repetitive and predictable career path for Quentin looms large. Ironically, having been welcomed into the intellectual establishment by heading up the Jury at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, I think where Tarantino could best match his undoubted skills with source material would be in an old-fashioned superhero comic book adaptation. A genre tailor made for his talent, style and technical flair. Tarantino directs Nick Fury: Agent of Shield … now that’s exciting.

This review is part of a swap with Dark Star, in which Rob gets our review of Vol. 2, and we get his review of the original. [See GirlsWithGuns for my assessment of Vol. 1.]