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Kill Bill – Vol 1

Kill Bill – Vol 1

By Alison Devlin • January 24th, 2011
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Miramax Films

Release date: October 17th, 2003
Running time: 111 minutes

Writer and director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Lui, Chiaki Kuriyama, Daryl Hannah, Vivica A. Fox

Kill Bill – Vol

I remember when I flicked the channel one night and became transfixed on a film that I knew I wasn’t old enough to watch, but did that stop me? Of course not – and I can’t imagine only just turning 18 now and being allowed to watch Kill Bill. It was gory, thrilling and unique, and it only got better the older I got, but not only that; I related more to it. I saw more than just these ferocious women; I saw a hurt mother, tragic love and bittersweet revenge.

Most of us will have been through the tragic love part. Caring for someone you know isn’t right for you, and having your heart broken to the point where you’re dying for vengeance, whatever the cost. Obviously, our morals are slightly different to an assassin, but the concept is the same. The question is, what would we do in her situation?

On her wedding day, ‘The Bride’ (Uma Thurman) wasn’t red because she was blushing; she was red from the blood that had been beaten out of her by The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Once a former member of this group, she now lies on the floor, cradling her pregnant stomach while looking into the eyes of the man she once loved (David Carradine) and the gun pointed at her head.

Before she can finish saying “it’s yours…” the first shot is fired. The next time we see her, she’s alive, and intent on revenge. She gets into her car and crosses off a name on her list. We see another name is already crossed out – a hint from Tarantino there’s more to come.

The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, Kill Bill (2003), dir. Quentin Tarantino. Miramax FilmsThe Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, Kill Bill (2003), dir. Quentin Tarantino. Miramax Films

We then see here lying in hospital, ‘The Bride’ wakes from her coma with fear, clutching her stomach, but feeling no baby. Hysterical, she cries out for her child, but she doesn’t grieve for long. She knows who’s responsible, and she focuses on retribution.

The brutality of Kill Bill is what makes it such a rarity. A woman is seldom at the heart of violent films, as both victim and perpetrator. Tarantino challenges the stereotypes by making the women in this film the most powerful women in the world. They’re heroes and villains.

With ‘The Bride’ comes a sense of empowerment for women. She’s never glamorous; she’s bloody, battered and sweaty, the true look of an assassin. She’s a powerful career woman, but is Tarantino telling us something different? She runs away from Bill so she can be a good mother and gives up her career to provide a normal life. When she’s prevented from doing this, she’s miserable, bitter, and angry.

Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), Kill Bill (2003), dir. Quentin Tarantino. Miramax FilmsVernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), Kill Bill (2003), dir. Quentin Tarantino. Miramax Films

Is Tarantino saying we must devote our womanly lives to provide for this child and that will make us blissfully happy?

Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) is a reformed assassin. After her stint in The Deadly Vipers, she becomes a traditional housewife, waiting at home for her sweet child, and her doctor husband. She’s strong, self-assertive, defensive and protective of her home and family, just like a husband would be. Tarantino hints that the roles of men and woman can easily be reversed.

When we first meet Elle (Daryl Hannah), she’s walking in a short-skirted nurse’s uniform, a typical male fantasy. We see her eye-patch and immediately get a sense of her being a menacing and empowered woman who’s been through the wars -intimidating every man she meets. Yet when she speaks on the phone to Bill, and although she fights him when she firsts hears his decision, she becomes subservient – a women bending to the will of her lover. Is this a sign of weakness?

O-Ren (Lucy Lui), Kill Bill (2003), dir. Quentin Tarantino. Miramax FilmsO-Ren (Lucy Lui), Kill Bill (2003), dir. Quentin Tarantino. Miramax Films

There’s also O-Ren (Lucy Lui), an American-Chinese-Japanese who’s been killing since she was 11. Tarantino drew inspiration from the main character in Lady Snowblood (1973), which is also a girl revenge movie. A lot of scenes from this film are used in Kill Bill, for example; the snow filled garden, splitting the story into chapters and the animated sequenced used to illustrate O-Ren’s back-story.

O-Ren is a career woman and the boss of the all-male Japanese underground. She’s violent, but smart as well, and knows how to pick her battles.

Last but not least, there’s Gogo (Chiaki Kuriyama). At just 17 years old, she’s O-Ren’s personal bodyguard. The Bride notes, “what she lacks in years, she makes up for in madness”. Dressed in a schoolgirl’s uniform, reminiscent to what she wore in Battle Royale (2000), her attire plays into another popular male fantasy, but when she asks a businessman if he wants to ‘penetrate’ her, and he obviously says yes, she penetrates him in the stomach with a knife. Does this show disastrous things will happen if a women developed a male’s violent nature? Or is Tarantino simply showing us Gogo’s madness?

Elle (Daryl Hannah), Kill Bill (2003), dir. Quentin Tarantino. Miramax FilmsElle (Daryl Hannah), Kill Bill (2003), dir. Quentin Tarantino. Miramax Films

Tarantino uses the women in this film to send a strong message about the codes and conventions of genres. Who said only men can seek revenge in an action film? Why can’t a woman be hurt in the same way and seek the same revenge? Normally in a fight between two women, filmmakers try to make it sensual and sexual. Tarantino uses a different tactic; stylistic fight sequences between women to create a brutal and bloody raw battle, uninfluenced by male fantasies.

Kill Bill has always been a personal favourite. Though they’re killers, these inspirational women have always astounded me. It’s not only the characters that inspire me, it is the actresses. Their flawless performances show real control and dominance, making me want to be more in control of life and to protect what’s mine.

Apart for loving the film, what we should take away from it is that women are strong.

 Kill Bill

Alison Devlin

Alison Devlin

Alison Devlin is in her final year of studying Media, aiming to be a professional critic in a magazine. She occupies her time with writing in her blog , making short art films, writing short scripts, doodling in her notebook, decorating her room with movie posters, watching documentaries about wildlife and taking calls as a receptionist at her part time job.

Her favourite films include Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, The Woman in Black, and Alice in Wonderland. An admirer of Quentin Tarantino, she enjoys reading about and watching postmodernism programmes, such as ‘The Mighty Boosh’ and ‘Family Guy’. Also a devoted fan to Alfred Hitchcock, she hopes to one day make cameo appearances in her own written films.

You can follow her on Twitter @devlinalison.

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