Trompler Foundation Archives

Kill Bill: Vol. 1


Slice Me Baby One More Time

The first volume of Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film has less wit than the dumbest ten minutes from Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, or Jackie Brown.  It also features a Tokyo restaurant with a bloodier floor than those of Joe’s warehouse, Zed’s basement, and Ordell’s trunk combined.  However, the absurd selection of Uma Thurman as a revenging assassin immediately sets a disarmingly arch tone, and one can then settle into enjoying Tarantino indulge his wanky fetishes (more women’s feet, please!).

Critics have charged Tarantino, the renowned cinephile, with assembling a collection of homages to his favorite directors and scenes from 60s and 70s action films.  I was most immediately reminded of music videos from the late 80s, when fledgling directors also pillaged stock narrative tropes on which they hung their own stylistic sketches.  Tarantino reportedly immersed himself in action cinematography in preparation for Kill Bill, and it paid off handsomely.  I am not a martial-arts-cinema afficianado, but I was immediately engaged from the first fight and I never got bored.

Aside from the exciting fight choreography, the other feature on which I can recommend Kill Bill is the wicked delight of Chiaki Kuriyama, who plays GoGo, Lucy Liu’s schoolgirl bodyguard.  GoGo is likely the first look American audiences have had at Kuriyama, but with luck not their last.  Subverting the male Japanese fetish with schoolgirls is hardly novel, but Kuriyama transcends the cool killer bitch type established by Thurman, Liu, and Vivica Fox and goes for deeply, deeply psychotic: we’re expecting Britney with a stiletto and we get Mr. Blond with a mace and chain.  I’m heartened to see that Tarantino found room for GoGo in Volume 2.

For all its body count, Kill Bill’s violence never goes beyond Monty Python and the Holy Grail in shock or repulsion; you’re too busy taking in the campy aesthetic to be disturbed.  Uma Thurman experiences a variety of penetrations, metallic and otherwise, but nothing as riveting as Eric Stolz’s adrenalin-filled syringe.

Copyright © 2004 by Eric Scharf.  All rights reserved.