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Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

Miramax Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/9/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/7/2008

As someone who is often immersed in popular culture, it can often prove difficult to separate the creator from the product. A case in point is Quentin Tarantino. While I'm a huge fan of his first two films, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction (Jackie Brown did nothing for me), I've grown to dislike the public persona of Quentin Tarantino over the years. As with Kevin Smith, at some point Tarantino ceased to be just a good filmmaker and became a public icon. Thus, I was hesitant when approaching Kill Bill: Volume 1. I wanted to like the movie, and not have it further fuel my dislike for Tarantino. The verdict? Tarantino may still be a spaz, but Kill Bill: Volume 1 is awesome!

Uma Thurman stars in Kill Bill: Volume 1 as a character known simply as The Bride. (Whenever someone utters her name, it's bleeped out.) As the story opens, we learn that The Bride was a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. On her wedding day, the other members of the squad attacked The Bride, leaving her for dead. She then awakens after having been in a coma for four years, and begins to seek her revenge on those who had wronged her -- Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah), Bud (Michael Madsen), and the ring-leader, Bill (David Carradine). The Bride travels the globe seeking her vengeance, letting nothing stand in her way. As she slices her way through her foes, The Bride gets closer to Bill, who holds the key to an important part of The Bride's past.

Quentin Tarantino has made a career of telling very straightforward stories in a very unique fashion, and Kill Bill: Volume 1 is no exception. As in his other films, Tarantino juxtaposes time here, and doesn't tell the story in a linear fashion. This allows him to explore the past and present by showing the action, instead of having a character explain it. The story in Kill Bill: Volume 1 is very uncomplicated and really contains only one plot twist. Yet, Tarantino finds very creative ways to tell his story. The perfect example of this is the last third of the film, which actually takes place before (in real time) the opening scene of Kill Bill: Volume 1. As the action is taking place in the past, the viewer has an idea of what the outcome will be, but Tarantino is still able to squeeze an incredible amount of tension out of the scenes in this section. Actually, there are several moments in this movie, most notably the very first shot, which show that Tarantino is still a master of shock and suspense and I would really like to see him apply his skills towards a true horror film. Bringing a new tool into his repertoire, Tarantino uses anime in Chapter 9 to tell part of the story. (And going in, I had no idea that the film suddenly switched to animation, so that was truly a surprise.) The only real plot-hole comes in Chapter 8, when one has to wonder where the police are!

But, enough about the story, we came here to see Uma Thurman kick butt, and that she truly does. There are several action set-pieces in Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Tarantino shows a sure hand at directing the fight scenes. The scenes are well-shot and well-choreographed, and the raining torrents of blood become simply farcical after a while. The movie does a good job of combining truly horrific violence, with campy, over-the-top action. Action dominates a good portion of the film, and for a Tarantino movie, the dialogue scenes are notably brief. This keeps things moving along rather nicely, and one is truly sorry to see the movie end. By now, most of you know that the movie was intended to be shown in its entirety, but was divided into two parts not long before its release. This doesn't create any problem with the narrative, and the ending of Volume 1 feels very organic and leaves the viewer longing for Volume 2. Kill Bill: Volume 1 shows that Quentin Tarantino is back on top of his game. Sure the film is simply a love-letter to a slew of kung-fu and action films which Tarantino grew up with (and many of you could probably do a much better job than me in naming the influences), but that diminish the fact that this a fun action film which unspools before our eyes in a very creative way.

Kill Bill: Volume 1 slices its way onto Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Miramax Home Entertainment. The film is letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a hint of grain in some shots (given the style of the film, this could have been intentional), but no defects from the source material. The picture has a very nice depth to it and it is also highly detailed. The colors look fantastic, from the red blood to Uma's yellow jumpsuit. The only problem that I noted was that the edges of the image were a bit soft at times. The Disc contains a Linear PCM 5.1 lossless audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 4.6 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The audio is quite impressive as every crash and crack from the fight scenes comes through loud and clear. The clarity of the track is notable and we hear every tiny piece of shattering glass. The stereo effects are quite detailed, but it's the surround sound and subwoofer effects which really seal the deal. I can't imagine seeing this movie without great audio. Note that the film contained on this Disc is the U.S. theatrical cut of Kill Bill: Volume 1, so the 'House of Blue Leaves' fight scenes is in black and white.

This Blu-ray Disc contains the same few extras which were found on the Kill Bill: Volume 1 DVD release. "The Making of Kill Bill" is a 22-minute featurette which offers a brief, but in-depth look at the creation of the film. Tarantino talks about the origin of the story, working on the script, and the making of the movie. There are comments from the primary cast and an overview is given for each character. Tarantino shares a few anecdotes about location shooting and the film's music. Speaking of the music, there are what amount to two DELETED SCENES featuring the band 5,6,7,8Ôs, the all-female group which performs at 'House of Blue Leaves'. These two scenes show the band performing the songs "I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield" and "I'm Blue". The songs were apparently shot for the film, as they are letterboxed at 2.35:1 and very stylishly shot. The "Trailer Gallery" from the DVD has become "Tarantino Trailers" and it features Kill Bill: Volume 1 Teaser , Kill Bill: Volume 1 Bootleg Trailer , and Kill Bill: Volume 2 Teaser, as well as trailers for Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown. Be warned, these trailers contain footage from Volume 2, so you may want to avoid them if you want to be completely surprised.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long