Beatrix aka the Bride aka Black Mamba is an assassin who decided to leave that life behind and settle down with her beau, Tommy Plympton. Though she now wants to settle down as a record store owner and raise her soon-to-be-born child, she was once known as a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, composed of O-Ren Ishii, Vernita Green, Elle Driver, Budd and leader Bill. Not taking the news of losing his best assassin well, Bill sends the rest of the squad in to break up the wedding and kill all involved. The group did not count on Beatrix surviving. Coming out of her coma and discovering the disappearance of her child, she goes on a mission to eliminate the Viper Squad one at a time, saving Bill for last. Her mission takes her into suburbia, up against the Japanese mafia, into the desert and finally through the countryside of Mexico to find and kill Bill.
Starring: Uma Thurman (The Bride), Lucy Liu (O-Ren Ishii), Vivica A. Fox (Vernita Green), Daryl Hannah (Elle Driver), David Carradine (Bill), Michael Madsen (Budd), Julie Dreyfus (Sofie Fatale), Sonny Chiba (Hattori Hanzo), Chiaki Kuriyama (Gogo Yubari), Michael Parks (Earl McGraw/Esteban Vihaio), Michael Bowen (Buck), Jun Kunimura (Boss Tanaka), Chia Hui Liu (Johnny Mo/Pai Mei), Bo Svenson (Reverend Harmony), Christopher Allen Nelson (Tommy Plympton), Samuel L. Jackson (Rufus)
Between the two films, there is an outstanding cast that help to bring this story to life. Uma Thurman is certainly the central character and is able to project a sense of both urgency and thoughtfulness in her adventures. There are times where she allows her urgency to cause her to rush through decisions and make mistakes, though her thoughtfulness certainly prepares her many of the challenges and allows her to make necessary adjustments at the most needed of times. Vivica A. Fox provides a great dialogue in her short feature at the start of the first movie. She is very quick witted and manages to bring the homemaker element to the scene. Lucy Liu is just fantastic in her role and rather intense in several of her scenes. Her mafia speech scene is one of the most memorable of the two films. Michael Madsen certainly appears well as Bill’s undisciplined brother and adds a sense of country to the cast. It is easy to believe that he is both dangerous and modest in his style of living. Daryl Hannah provides that rashness and intensity which gives a sense of jealousy between Bill’s appreciation for Black Mamba over her. David Carradine rounds out the group and has that confidence and intelligence to be believable as the group’s leader.
In addition to the main cast, there is an assortment of supporting characters that add great elements to the films. Samuel L. Jackson may not say much but he always adds a little something to every film he appears in. Chia Hui Liu has great intensity and discipline as the Kung Fu master Pai Mei. Michael Parks adds a fun element of seediness and betrayal through his character Esteban Vihaio, who is a loose friend of Bill. Julie Dreyfus does not necessarily add a lot to her scenes through her acting and serves more as a prop to be manipulated, though it is her character’s purpose toward the storyline. Chiaki Kuriyama adds a sense of psychosis that works well with a Tarantino film and she certainly created a buzz around the action of her scenes. Sonny Chiba, as Hattori Hanzo, adds both a feeling of foundation through his character’s role in Beatrix’s story and comedy through his interactions with Kenji Ohba, who plays Chiba’s son and assistant.
Quentin Tarantino is well known for his off-the-wall style of storytelling and these movies are no exception. From a presentation standpoint, he tells this tale of revenge like a novel through nonlinear chapters. Each chapter helps to develop the character and explain Beatrix’s evolution from assassin to bride and back to assassin, though you could argue that the assassin never left. Fight scenes are certainly over the top with the amount of gore and blood that gets spilled. While fighting the Crazy 88, there are limbs everywhere and pools of blood so thick that the characters are sliding around in the aftermath. To tell the story of O-Ren, he uses a cartoon production that takes some of the bloodshed to a greater extreme.
For Kill Bill Vol. 1, the story is more about the start of Beatrix’s quest of revenge than the actual reason for it or the preparation before enacting vengeance. Chapter 1 (#2) finds Beatrix in the suburbs in a battle with Vernita. While the two arguing about their nicknames is certainly humorous, their fight scene is one of the more intense 1 on 1 battles of the series. Chapter 2 (The Blood-Spattered Bride) explores the aftermath of the massacre at the little chapel and Beatrix’s awakening in the hospital. Her escape exhibits her anger over her former squad’s betrayal. Chapter 3 (The Origins of O-Ren Ishii) goes into that cartoon style storytelling of O-Ren loss of her parents, the attack on her family’s killer and the start of her rise as an elite assassin. Chapter 4 (The Man from Okinawa) is a shorter but highly vital element of the story, as it is the moment Beatrix gets her assassination weapon. Chapter 5 (Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves) wraps up this half of the story with a major battle with the Crazy 88, Gogo Yubari and O-Ren, ultimately sending a serious message to Bill and the remaining Viper Squad.
Kill Bill Vol. 2 takes a stronger look at the important events leading up to Beatrix’s vengeance quest and the conclusion of her mission. Chapter 6 (The Massacre at Two Pines) revisits the chapel but prior to the massacre. The scene helps to set up Beatrix’s and Bill’s struggle with her decision and the reasons for her desire to kill her former love. Chapter 7 (The Lonely Grave of Paula Shultz) serves as the first half of Beatrix’s second near-death experience, as she gets buried alive, and sets up the opportunity to tell the tale of her study of Kung Fu. Chapter 8 (The Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei) gives a backstory to her knowledge of Kung Fu, an element of her relationship with Bill and her personal struggle with Elle. Considering Beatrix was buried alive in the transition, she is able to apply the teachings of Pai Mei to have the chance to continue her quest. Chapter 9 (Elle and I) gives Beatrix a chance to take out her aggression on Elle. This chapter allows there to be two major battles between the members of the Viper Squad, though the fate of Elle is left unknown. Chapter 10 (Face to Face) matches Beatrix up against her former leader. There is no real physical fighting that takes place, but instead the two battle their emotions and wits.
These two movies work extremely well together and are two of Tarantino’s better films. Though the visuals may be a little much at times, the story is compelling and the dialogue is fantastic.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 – Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5
Kill Bill Vol. 2 – Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5