BEST OF THE ’00s: KILL BILL


(previously: Almost Famous)

My timing on this is a bit awkward… I’d already planned to make “Kill Bill” the next movie(s) I was gonna revisit when the news hit a couple of days ago that David Carradine, i.e. motherfucking Bill himself, had died. How would that affect the viewing of his defining performance?

We’ll see, but first, let’s address the unfortunate fact that we’re still waiting on that damn “The Whole Bloody Affair” DVD that was supposed to reunite Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 as the single picture it was always meant to be. Oh well, it’s still possible to make it work somehow by stopping Vol. 1 before the iffy wrap-up/cliffhanger, then skipping that silly intro from Vol. 2.

“This is me at my most… masochistic.”

Okay, so right away, in the opening moments of the film, it’s creepier than ever. But we won’t really get to see all that much of Carradine until we’re three hours down the line, so let’s not focus on him just yet. Until that last chapter dominated by Bill, it’s really all about the women. Uma Thurman‘s Beatrix Kiddo, AKA The Bride, AKA Black Mamba, of course, but also all those other fierce ladies she duels: Vivica A. Fox‘s Vernita Green, Chiaki Kuriyama‘s Gogo Yubari, Lucy Liu‘s O-Ren Ishii, Daryl Hannah‘s Elle Driver…

The Bride kills a lot of men, too, starting with those rapists in her hospital room, but always in quick and particularly painful ways. Michael Madsen‘s Budd doesn’t even get the privilege of being offed by her, “the deadliest woman in the world” – he actually dies off-screen, from a snakebite… Which goes to show how, unlike the vast majority of action movies, “Kill Bill” is female-driven to its core. Truly and thoroughly, it’s about things like women trying to make their way in a man’s man’s world, getting revenge on the men who abuse them, indulging in a bit of girl-girl rivalry and, most of all, it’s about a mother’s desperate quest to get even with those who took her baby daughter away from her, which is incredibly emotionally affecting thanks to Uma’s devastating performance.

The other key thing in “Kill Bill” is the perfect balance of oriental and occidental iconography it displays. As he’s done in just about every of his films, but never to quite this extent, Quentin Tarantino creates an intoxicating juxtaposition of Asian cinema (notably samurai, kung fu and yakuza flicks) and of Westerns (of the spaghetti variety, mostly). It’s “Yojimbo” and “A Fistful of Dollars” rolled up into one… Just as Carradine embodied both Eastern and Western sensibilities, which made him the ideal actor to play Bill.

Now, a lot has been written already, here and elsewhere, about all the great things in “Kill Bill”. I could go on and on about the use of color (the way red blood looks against that yellow tracksuit!), about the sound of clashing steel and gunshots, about the always effective music, about the brilliant way every scene is shot and cut, about how fun it is to watch Sonny Chiba‘s Hattori Hanzō and Gordon Liu‘s Pai Mei… Here’s a picture that features both the greatest action set-piece (Showdown at House of Blue Leaves, where Uma -and body double ZoĆ« Bell!- kick a whole lot of ass) and what may be the most cleverly written extended dialogue sequence (Beatrix and Bill’s Face to Face) of the decade.

Tommy – “I guess I just believe in living dangerously.”
Bill – “I know just what you mean.”

Here’s another morbid echo for you but ultimately, David Carradine’s untimely passing doesn’t really distract from the genius at work in “Kill Bill”. When we do get to that last half hour in the hacienda and he finally takes center stage, all we see is Bill in all his badass, funny, scary, cool glory. And inevitably, I simultaneously get teary-eyed and laugh when the old snake utters his crucial, almost-final line:

“You’re not a bad person. You’re a terrific person. You’re my favorite person… But every once in a while, you can be a real cunt.”

“Kill Bill” is one of the Best of the ’00s for sure.