Kill Bill: Volume 1 - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Kill Bill: Volume 1 Reviews

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Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
½ April 7, 2018
One of the saddest things in the world of film is seeing a good film-maker failing to fulfil their full potential. Many a director who has lit up the industry with their first effort ends up either disappearing from view altogether or settling into a long career of disappointments which can never hope to recapture that magic. Making fun of a film-maker who consistently makes nothing but garbage is like shooting fish in a barrel; picking apart an underwhelming offering when you expected nothing but the best is far more painful and difficult.

In the 1990s it appeared, at least to the casual observer, that Quentin Tarantino could do no wrong. He followed up Reservoir Dogs with the acclaimed screenplay for True Romance, and solidified his reputation through the success of Pulp Fiction, culminating in his first Oscar win. Following a number of shaky side projects (the ill-fated Four Rooms, the disappointing From Dusk till Dawn and some uncredited writing jobs), he returned to prominence with his best film, Jackie Brown. But where that film was a step up towards maturity, Kill Bill: Volume 1 is a retreat to familiar territory, with style to spare but nothing between its ears.

Kill Bill: Volume 1 is traditionally seen as the point in Tarantino's career where he stopped being edgy and interesting and simply became lazy and self-indulgent. The fact that he had to split the original film in two to get Miramax to release it suggests that there is more than a grain of truth in this line of reasoning. Even if we take Volume 1 on its own merits, at 111 minutes it feels much longer than it is, having none of the built-in efficiency of Reservoir Dogs, either on a narrative level or a production level.

Revenge thrillers have one of the simplest structures of any story in literature: bad stuff happens, either to the hero or someone the hero cares about, they go on a quest to get revenge, more bad stuff happens in the process, cut to black. You don't need in excess of four hours to tell the kind of story that most revenge thrillers of the kind that Tarantino loves would tell in 90 minutes, two hours at the most. If Tarantino was truly the kind of super-fan of exploitation cinema that he claims to be, he would have imposed upon himself the same rigorous discipline that those directors had. What we get instead is two hours of flannel as he seeks to be as reference-laden as he can, and in which what story there is comes second.

There is no denying that Volume 1 (as it shall hereafter be called) looks good. Even at his worst, Tarantino does have the ability to create eye-catching shots, using interesting camera positions and working a range of styles into the finished product. The film does have a distinctive look to it even if the editing can't disguise the fact that you're not really getting anything new, and the set-piece involving the Crazy 88 has any number of creative and distinctive deaths to entertain fans of splatter. The scene is utterly preposterous - the legion of Agent Smiths in The Matrix Reloaded put up more of a fight - but even if your experience of martial arts films or wuxia doesn't extend far beyond Enter the Dragon and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon respectively, you will find a few moments to enjoy.

The problem is not that Tarantino has lost his distinctive style and therefore can't deliver a well-worn story in a novel and compelling way. The problem is that he has stopped using his distinctive style to tell a story, and has starting using his style to shoehorn in references regardless of whether they serve the story or not. His early films may have paid homage to many different films or genres (Reservoir Dogs being his version of The Killing, for instance), but they ultimately had structure because of their adherence - albeit subversively - to the demands of their genre. Instead of a taut, clever martial arts film, Volume 1 is a bloated, episodic list of nods and winks at other films which overstays its welcome and very quickly becomes tiresome.

Many of the visuals tricks that Tarantino employs in this film come across more as gimmicks than a genuinely creative decision. His decision to use chapters and non-linear storytelling is not motivated by anything with any great foundation; he does it because he's Tarantino and that's his thing, rather than because it adds weight or depth to the story or brings out new ideas or themes. His use of split-screen and certain musical cues also feels tired, and even the scenes which work well (like the Hattori Hanzo section) lack the sparkle of his earlier work.

An equally big problem with the film is that it lacks the three-dimensional characters which made Jackie Brown feel like a step up. Every single character in Volume 1 talks like Tarantino, regardless of their role in the plot, the amount of screen time they have or their level of intelligence; much of the dialogue could have been swapped around from actor to actor without losing any impact. Characters whose backstory is set up as intriguing (such as the anime-style background to Lucy Liu's character) end up as mere mouthpieces for whatever half-clever thing Tarantino was thinking at the time.

Because the dialogue and its delivery are so uniform (and uniformly mediocre at that), Volume 1 also fails at being any kind of female empowerment story. It's all well and good putting a woman in traditionally male roles or male situations and depict her holding her own, but unless you characterise her in an intelligent, rounded way, you essentially just have Bruce Lee in a dress (or set of leathers, in this case). The majority of the Bride's actions in Volume 1 fit in with existing adolescent male expectations of the revenge protagonist - if you used CGI and replaced her with Charles Bronson's character from Death Wish, no-one would have noticed. The character who should have the female empowerment arc, O-Ren Ishii, gets a load of backstory, a few opportunities to shout in close up and an underwhelming duel with the Bride. Her whole arc screams 'missed opportunity', and while Lucy Liu does the best she can with the role it is not the best use of her talents.

This lack of characterisation extends to the other performances as well. None of the principle cast are especially bad, but unlike previous Tarantino vehicles they don't get the room to cultivate the kind of performance that would surprise an audience, like John Travolta or Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction. It's always good to see Daryl Hannah back on screen since she is such a charismatic screen presence, but she gets far too little to work with, and David Carradine is rather dull as Bill. As for Uma Thurman, her character is far less charismatic than her Pulp Fiction equivalent and her delivery is wooden and unconvincing. While she deserves our sympathy for the permanent injuries that she sustained during the filming, her acting here is every bit as unconvincing and off-putting as her work on Batman and Robin.

Because the film is so clearly a case of style over substance, moving from set-piece to set-piece rather than organically building, all the parts of it which should be shockingly memorable actually end up being slightly dull. Because we are not as emotionally invested in the characters as we should be, we don't really care about all the blood being spilled. We feel bad when the Bride is wronged, but her actions don't endear us to her any further, and there's no sense of vindication when the film comes to an end. The editing hinders this process further, cutting so quickly that some of the violence loses whatever weight (physical or emotional) it hoped to possess. In editing terms, Volume 1's death scenes are to Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn what Chicago was to Singing in the Rain - endless cutting around flashy angles, instead of genuine scale and spectacle.

In the midst of all this, it would be wrong to think that Volume 1 was impossible to endure. Taken as a film on its own outside of Tarantino's involvement, it's a pretty run-of-the-mill affair, with a handful of memorable moments in among sections which are baggy or unremarkable. Of course, not every revenge thriller has to deliver the same level of nuance or subversion as Get Carter, just as not every 'one last job' heist film has to have the existential quality of Sexy Beast. But given how outstanding Tarantino's early work was, being unremarkable is arguably the film's greatest transgression.

Kill Bill: Volume 1 is a long-winded disappointment which fails to deliver on either its story or the style in which it is told. For all the memorable moments or decent lines which are scattered throughout, it represents a big climbdown from Tarantino's 1990s work from which he has never completely recovered as a film-maker. Whether taken on its own or with the second part, it's ultimately a frustrating and underwhelming experience. It's not terrible, it's just rather boring.
½ March 26, 2018
Incredibly unrealistic.
½ March 23, 2018
(94/100)
So before reading this, I consider Kill Bill Vol 1 and 2 as one long epic. Quentin Tarantino's first attempt at an R rated blood spectacle went very well. I consider this movie after Pulp Fiction to be Quentin's best work. And the passion he has for directing shows in this awesome long movie. 4 hours of developed story and well choreographed action scenes. Quentin has such a unique style which I like so very much. I don't see why anyone (except for the Romance lovers out there) wouldn't like this movie.
½ March 15, 2018
Kill Bill Vol. 1 is a good movie but has moments that feel out of place.
March 11, 2018
THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING MOVIE EVER INVENTED, I KNOW IT came out about 16 years ago, but I still think people should stand on top of roofs and just scream about how amazing this movie is. if you haven't do yourself a favor by dropping everything right now and running to a television. I wish I was a guy so I could have a boner and physically show how much I love this movie. what are you doing? stop reading this and WATCH IT
½ March 8, 2018
Tarantino's creativity truly shows in this first installment of "Kill Bill." This movie is just pure entertainment and every scene is a lot of fun. It leads up to one of the most satisfying series of fight scenes I've seen in movies period. The over the top violence and the visual style is immensely absorbing and impressive. This movie is more than aware that it is not meant to be realistic yet it has a leading character who is easy to empathize with and root for. It leaves you wanting to watch the second part but also stands on its own very well. For me personally, this film is one of Tarantino's best. It's an entertaining blast from start to finish that is truly unique.
March 3, 2018
What can I say? This movie is awesome. One of my faves.
February 24, 2018
1001 movies to see before you die.
January 28, 2018
Good news first, Quentin Tarantino fully flexes his directorial skills with creative and inventive shots. Kill Bill is perhaps his most visually striking film, with innovative fight sequences and beautiful scenery. While this may be, there is no denial this Tarantino flick is all style over substance. By all means, I understand the appreciation for Kill Bill, but at the same time, the film completely depends on it's shocking violence. Overall, an OK film, better than most action movies, but just not quite memorable as Tarantino's other classics.
January 16, 2018
The story just made me unreasonable with this movie, someone who has a big grudge against her ex-husband. But, this movie is a movie with full of gore, violence, and action in every scene. Combining with the culture of Japan, the addition of a little thriller that produces a non-linear plot, Kill Bill: Volume 1 is actually a modern action movie that brings us a bloody adventure everywhere. Uma Thurman is a great actress.
December 24, 2017
7.8

[Quentin Tarantino]
½ December 23, 2017
Kill Bill: Volume 1 is as goodas a revenge thriller can possibly be. You can just feel that Mr. Tarantino had a blast with this one.
December 17, 2017
Puntaje Original. 7.5

La destreza de Tarantino es notoria en su cuarto film, transformando una trama cliché en una historia magistral que sólo un genio como Quentin puede lograr, personajes singulares y redondeados eficazmente en una
December 16, 2017
A Heavy Deliver By Tarantino, Kill Bill Is An Action Packed, Gory Revenge Flick Than Smartly Drives Stylish Cinematic Sequences Over Narrative Structure Without Losing Charms from Both Sides, All Of This Adding Decent Performances You Get A Tartantino Classic
December 15, 2017
You just gotta love Quentin Tarantino. This movie abducts you from the very beginning and doesn't let you go until you are drained, skinless and surrendered, and ready to watch it all over again. It is inconceivable not to recognize how talented one most be to think outside of the box like this, to dare to do something so drastically different, so risky, and yet so meticulously well done. Bravo.
Super Reviewer
½ December 6, 2017
A tremendous orgy of violence and style. Some of the great fight scenes from the past 20 years of movies can be found here.
½ November 29, 2017
Bién, está película es; ridícula, grotesca, fantanciosa, extremadamente infantil y me a encantado. Como dije la película es ridícula; pero en el buen sentido, de echo Tarantino es justamente lo que buscaba en hacer esta película, todo un parodia y referencia a las películas de artes marciales y animes de acción. Kill Bill tiene una narrativa muy peculiar en un momento estás viendo una escena de acción y en otro estás viendo un animé y lo logra, realmente lo supieron hacer muy bien, Quentin Tarantino demostró que una trama de venganza puede ser muy buena a diferencia de como dice la crítica en general y por Dios, el soundtrack es una maravilla.
En general recomiendo esta película a todo público menos a personas de estómago débil ya que algo que caracteriza a las películas de este director es el gore.
October 29, 2017
Kill Bill movies: favourites of all time
½ October 24, 2017
Kill Bill: A Tarintino classic with stylish sword action with a unqiuely interesting, and refreshing, story, one that greatly boasts with style and form.
October 7, 2017
One of those "100 movies to watch before you die" type of movies. Just an amazing theatrical experience which was actually topped by its sequel.
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