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Kill Bill Vol. 1

One thing I really hate are epilogues. You know the sort of thing, almost like an afterthought to tie everything up with a neat bow. At best, they're an annoyance, that can be forgotten with a bit of perseverance so as not to ruin your memories of an otherwise perfectly good movie  (such as the last 20 minutes of A.I). At worst, they leave such a bad taste in your mouth that it's hard to forgive the preceding movie for taking you along for the ride (such as the 'trailer' for The Matrix Revolutions at the end of this summer's 'Reloaded') Why am I talking about epilogues? Because 'Kill Bill' has the best epilogue I've ever seen. But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself...

For Tarantino's fourth directorial outing, the notoriously anal film fan originally decided to make his own version of the martial arts movies made famous in the 1970's. However, QT being QT, nothing is ever quite that straightforward and we are left with a blistering mix of cinematic styles as Uma Thurman's nameless central character ('The Bride') seeks revenge on those who left her and her unborn baby for dead on her wedding day. In fact that  act itself gives us the single most disturbing pre-credits sequence in cinema history, a real wake-up call that serves to sort the wheat from the chaff - if you find the first 30 seconds hard to stomach, go and ask for a refund because things are only going to get bumpier.

Yes, it's a violent movie, but it's a violence very rarely seen on screen. Take the opening fight between Thurman and Vivica A. Fox. It's unbelievably fast - not in a superhero sense - but in a desperate, all or nothing sense. It reminded me of the opening rounds of those classic fights between Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler in the 1980's. Desperation, drive and a tinge of fear all thrown into the mix. It's not about glory, or slow motion knockouts, it's about getting a job done. And then Tarantino screws with us again, the action stops before exploding again and then, before we've really found the movie's rhythm, he's off again, taking us to a flashback to flesh out the backstory.

Fractured timelines have become something of a standard since 1994's 'Pulp Fiction' so QT has decided that he wants to reclaim the land as his own. We get flashbacks within flashbacks (one origin story is even told purely in a Manga-style animation) and, oddly enough, when the movie ends we are actually left at a much earlier point in the narrative than we were after the opening credits. But it never feels forced and it doesn't ever presume to be cleverer than it actually is. And the reason is simply  this - Quentin Tarantino is one hell of a clued up movie buff. If he wants to make a scene a homage to 1970's martial arts flicks, he knows everything there is to know about them - right down to hiring the right cinematographer to get the right look and feel. For example, much has been made of Thurman's yellow jumpsuit being a replica of Bruce Lee's in 'Game of Death' but that's merely the most obvious  movie reference on show. Check out the tune Darryl Hannah is whistling as she's sauntering through the hospital to finish Thurman off - that's not a coincidence. Tarantino knows what he wants and, more importantly, he knows exactly how to get it. As a result, he has an absolute ball of a time and delivers probably the most action packed movie of the year. Forget 'Reloaded's CGI-filled brawl between Neo and the Agent Smiths - check out the climactic battle here as 'The Bride' takes on scores of black suited, masked Yakuza assasins (and just where did QT get the idea for  that look from?). Armed with nothing more than a samurai sword and some subtle wire-work, 'Kill Bill' makes the millions spent on 'The Matrix' sequels seem like a bit of a waste of good money.

And then, just when you're really getting into the whole revenge vibe, the film ends. Miramax have famously split this movie in half so we end up with a 'Vol.1' this side of Christmas with 'Vol. 2' rolling around next February. However, as cynical a marketing ploy as it no doubt was, it actually works in the movie's favour, thanks to the epilogue I mentioned at the start. Whatever you do, when you watch this movie do NOT leave the cinema as soon as the credits begin to roll. The final line (if not the final word) of dialogue spoken in the epilogue changes everything you've just seen and by the time you do leave the mulitiplex, February 2004 will seem a very, very long way away indeed.


Important addendum - I've just had it confirmed that the 'epilogue' now forms part of the main feature, as opposed to occurring part-way through the credits as was the case in the version of the movie that I saw.  Good move on the part of QT - anybody who hasn't seen that last minute or so hasn't really seen 'Kill Bill Vol. 1' at all!!




Sean G

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