So perhaps you are forewarned. The trailors were not restrained, and the opening shot is a stark black and white closeup of a woman's face, beaten almost beyond recognition. Ladies and gentlemen, the hero of the film. The phoenix who rises from the dead, the angel of revenge, the woman with one mission - to do something gloriously big for the watered-down ketchup and severed heads industry.
Uma Thurman (The Bride) has no time to kill (haha). She's out to avenge her near-annihilation and the death of her groom, unborn child and several bridesmaids. And to this end if she has to keep going relentlessly day and night, and in the process subject you to two hours of Stephen-King-on-steroids, then by God, she's going to do it. It's not every day that Quentin Tarantino comes back to make his fourth film. Like, whatever.
On The Bride's color-cordinated death-list is the Deadly Viper Assasination Squad, of which she used to be a member till things got unfriendly. Her ex-partners in crime take orders from a faceless entity with fancy rings, called Bill (David Carradine, we're told, although it could just as well be Amrish Puri).
This, by the way, just goes to show - you take a lean mean bunch of fighting machines and they'll listen to anyone who sounds cool on the phone. Charlie, Bill - it doesn't matter, as long as the orders come from a well-modulated voice, that would sound kind of stupid ordering a pizza with everything, but does a great job with summons of the kill-her-dead-with-no-witnesses genre.
So there she is, our gal: paralysed, comatose and left for dead for four years, only to wake one day, wipe off the shit that the universe has been piling on her, and go looking for her colleagues. The story begins from the end, and works its way back(ass)wards.
First we watch an excellent fight (lots of those in the film), before The Bride kills Copperhead (Vivian Fox), in front of her little daughter. Then, as she strikes the second name off her death-list, we travel back in time to watch the killing of the first - O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu). By this time, you've seen enough ketchup to put you off fries till next Tuesday at least. So to give you a break, the film switches to anime (Japanese animation) mode.
O-Ren Ishii, queen-pin of the Jap underworld, has a gory past like everyone else in this film. Both as a nine-year-old who watches her parents being killed, and as an eleven-year-old who sits on the chest of the murderer while she stabs him to death. She grows up to become one of the top assassins of the world, and the best actor in this film.
Lucy Liu, exuding calm warrior wisdom, displays a great scope for subtle expression even during the cut-em-ups. And expression is a refreshing thing here. Anything to lend even a smidgen of character to this orgy of plastic and steel.
The film ends abruptly (although not soon enough) with a 'To be continued...' You see, she hasn't killed Bill yet. And there's a twist in the tale. So stick around and don't lose your lunch just yet.
Disturbing as Kill Bill is, it relies a little too much on vulgar props - blood spurting a couple of feet high from every mangled corpse, and people impaling themselves on the heroine's sword with careless abandon. The background music contributes more to the effect of ultra-violence than all the piled-up carcasses do.
Jap-anime and black & white sequences, and traditional martial art, all handled with slick camera work - there's no denying this is a super technique of film-making. But what about that other old technique - finding a good script? Or finding any script?
The fight scenes, however, are choreographed with tender attention to detail, mood and character. And maybe, for a brief while before the gore happens, you will actually have the chance to appreciate the beautifully orchestrated sequences, one of which takes place wholly in silhouette and the other in an idyllic snow-kissed yard. But as soon as you straighten up in your seat and get absorbed in the film again, someone gets a piece of wood stuck in their noggin, or has the top of his head sliced off.
Kill Bill is like a gruesome videogame that won't end. And no amount of ramming on AltCtrlDel is going to stop Part 2.