'Kill Bill: Vol. 1' is murder on the stomach

by Christine Huggins | 10/14/03 5:00am

When "Kill Bill" starts, a weird energy runs through the audience, maybe due to the discomfiting effects of the opening song, "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)," coupled with the harsh breathing of someone in pain. The image on screen is that of a battered woman, one eye swollen shut, her lip bleeding, and a pleading and terrified expression on her face.

Meet The Bride, played by Uma Thurman. Pregnant and attending her own wedding in a rural Texas chapel, she is beaten to a pulp by a man named Bill and members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. With a bullet in her head, she is left for dead, but somehow survives.

In a comatose state for four years, The Bride awakens to realize that she has lost her baby and has been prostituted by an orderly in the hospital that she has been kept in. Once she awakens, The Bride kills an orderly and makes her escape in his truck. She has only one mission in life: to kill the people who have done this to her, and especially to "kill Bill." Revenge is the central theme in the movie. The audience knows what the Bride has lost, and we empathize with her, but we wonder how far she will go to seek revenge.

The answer is pretty damn far.

Catching the first plane to Japan, The Bride plans to exact revenge on O-Ren Ishii, who is played by Lucy Liu. O-Ren is a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and now head-honcho of Tokyo's underworld.

It is interesting to note that director Quentin Tarantino incorporates Japanese anim to show the scene where O-Ren witnesses her parents' bloody death at age nine. The anim seems to allow more freedom of expression; blood spurts farther, the villain looks more evil and O-Ren seems more vulnerable. The gruesome murders are seen through the eyes of a child, so it makes sense to portray them in animation.

Not only that, but Tarantino seems to sense when some material may be too raw for the audience. It is during these raw moments in the script that he switches to either anime or black and white.

Another raw moment in the script comes when The Bride has a face down with O-Ren's henchmen, the Crazy 88, who are defending their mistress. This showdown takes place at the chic Tokyo nightclub, The House of Blue Leaves. Once again, Tarantino senses the rawness of the fighting and chooses to switch the film from color to black and white. Amazingly, the carnage of this scene competes with "Braveheart" and "Gladiator," only this time it's a woman dishing out the punishment.

And The Bride dishes out her punishment with no restraint. The fact that approximately 250 gallons of fake blood were used for this movie is your first clue that there is excessive violence. We can understand why The Bride would go after Bill and O-Ren, but to slaughter all of the Crazy 88 and to devote this much time to the carnage is a bit unnecessary. It really doesn't add to the story. Instead, it only contributes to the sickening feeling you get as you watch yet another arm fly through the air.

The beaches of Normandy probably didn't soak up as much blood as the set of "Kill Bill Vol. 1." Tarantino combines Spaghetti Western, martial arts and Japanese anim for an overall completely original action movie. If you like intricate fight scenes, bad-ass characters and plenty of gore, this movie's for you. However, for most moviegoers, the geysers of crimson are just too much.

Just remember, that this is a two part film so some of the plot intricacies will not b-e revealed until "Kill Bill: Vol. 2," due out in February, 2004.