This is a stylish and visually striking movie, but it is also a very violent movie. Make that a very, very, very, very violent movie, possibly the most violent movie ever released by a major American movie studio. The carnage is so completely and outrageously over the top that it is not disturbing in an unsettling Saving Private Ryan/this really happened way; some viewers, however, may find it disturbing in another way, as the endless slicing off of body parts and gallons (purportedly 450) of fake spurting blood may feel overwhelming or even numbing. For me, what was most unsettling was the way that the audience laughed at the movie’s most outrageously violent moments.
Drector/screenwriter Quentin Tarantino wisely used the simplest possible plot, one that can be summarized in one word: revenge. Once that plot trigger is cocked, the rest of the movie is just one fight scene after another. The revenge provides a motive and a hero, and that gives the fight scenes enough forward momentum to feel like a story.
Uma Thurman plays someone we just know as “The Bride” (her name is bleeped out). On her wedding day, the entire wedding party was killed by her former associates, the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DiVAS). The pregnant Bride was beaten and shot in the head, but did not die. She lost her baby and was in a coma for four years. When she wakes up, she seeks revenge from each of the DiVAS and their leader, Bill.
Audiences who are looking for subtlety, heart, or insights about the human condition will not find much to like in this film. But fans of this genre will find it sensationally (in both senses of the word) entertaining. Former video clerk and Cuisinart-brained film savant Tarantino pays tribute to his beloved Hong Kong and spaghetti Western films. The action scenes are brilliantly staged, including a silhouetted one-against dozens, an anime detour, and a climactic scene with heart-stopping action in a silent and gently snowy Japanese garden. Tarantino’s other trademarks — fabulously cool music selections, playing around with time sequences, and colorful dialogue mixing pop culture with offhand references to outrageous brutality and horrible crimes — are all there in full force.
Ectomorph goddess Uma Thurman gives a dazzling performance. Thurman, Viveca A. Fox, and Lucy Liu have both the acting and action chops to more than hold their own in fight scenes with eye-popping visuals that would overwhelm most performers.
A breathtaking cliff-hanger of an ending will have to hold audiences until part two is released. While this film seems all about sensation, Tarantino promises that the second half will add some depth and meaning. If he does, maybe I’ll raise the grade on this one to a B+.
Parents should exercise the strongest caution before allowing their kids to see this film. They should know that the movie has the most intense, graphic, brutal, and destructive violence imaginable (at least until Tarantino thinks up something new). Body parts are sliced off and blood gushes and spurts like a geyser. Many characters are maimed and many more are killed. A mother is murdered in front of her young child. A man’s head is sliced off and tossed around. There are references to the repeated rape of a character while she is unconscious. Characters drink and smoke and use very strong language.
Families who see this movie should talk about the sources of inspiration Tarantino drew from.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the sequel Kill Bill Vol. 2 and Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and some of the Hong Kong action films that inspired this one.