PSIPOOK | film | kill bill


  Kill Bill
Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, David Carradine
Director: Quentin Tarantino


Kill Bill: post-post modern, post ironic, post coherent, and posthaste to the bank with buckets of dosh. After a six-year absence Tarantino is back with the biggest, baddest, most hubris-laden film of his career and what a stinker it is.

The high priest of movie nerds has raided the stock of martial arts, samurai, yakuza and James Bond movies and gene spliced them with Japanese manga to create something that is essence of pulp action. It is the process we saw in Pulp Fiction taken to a rarified form.

Unfortunately he has forgotten the elements that made his previous films popular: strong characterisation, witty dialogue and a halfway coherent plot. He has given us instead an eclectic patchwork of images and postures transplanted from other movies and 93 minutes of almost unrelenting fighting.

Fans of the fight genre will be wetting their pants with glee, most other folks will be gagging their way to the exit.

One British reviewer asked whether Tarantino had lost the plot. A very apt question because this film doesn’t have one. Bill (David Carradine) and his evil troupe, the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad — a sort of Charlie’s Angels of Death — inexplicably turn on one of their own, known only as the bride (Uma Thurman), massacring her wedding guests, her husband and her unborn child on her wedding day, and leave her for dead. It is a bit of a shock for them when the bride, four years later, comes out of her coma and sets about slashing her way to revenge. She kills someone in the US, goes to Okinawa to buy a samurai sword and goes to Tokyo where she kills lots and lots of people. That’s about it. Worse, the key events of the story — the key events are always ridiculously gory killings — happen without motivation or reason. The story is merely a thin line connecting the blood splats.

Tarantino’s characters have always existed in a moral, social and intellectual vacuum. They have no resonance or relevance in the real world. I noted that in Kill Bill, post 9-11, the bride was casually walking on and off airliners with her sword in her hand. Is this more hubris, or simple indifference or an unfunny joke? The bride was a member of a gang of hired killers, so we are invited here to identify with a murderer as heroine. In one of the first scenes, we see the bride kill a former colleague in revenge but the murder happens in front of the colleague’s four-year-old daughter. The kid has just seen Mummy skewered with a survival knife and the bride turns to her, apologises for letting her see the killing, then tells her that if she still feels upset about her mum’s death when she is an adult, she should come and get her own revenge. This scene is both callous in the extreme and presents revenge as a virtue. Presumably we are supposed to understand this as parody, as another knowing Tarantino joke, but given the fetishistic earnestness of the combat it is very difficult. Moreover, what exactly is the point of the parody? We all know fight flicks are absurd. Is there nothing else going on in the world we can lob a brick at?

Tarantino’s appeal rests in part on his continual nods to other movies but this is not enough to sustain interest in his own work or imbue it with any worth. This constant self-reference is known in other words as self-indulgence.

The world of Kill Bill, the universe of Tarantino, is the world of comic books and junk movies and as such we are not supposed to take any of it seriously — why then take it at all, I ask.

Review by Chris Page

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