Monday, August 1, 2011

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 - Not the best movie ever made, but the most enjoyable ride

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (Action, Crime)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu and Daryl Hannah

Disney / Buena Vista | 2003 | 111 min | Rated R | Released Sep 09, 2008

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

English: LPCM 5.1 (48kHz, 16-bit)
English, French: Dolby Digital 5.1
English: LPCM 5.1 (48kHz, 16-bit)
English: Dolby Digital 5.1
French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (less)

English SDH, Cantonese, Korean, Japanese, Spanish
English SDH, Spanish, Japanese, Cantonese, Korean (less)

Single 50GB Blu-ray Disc

The Film 5/5

I’m a big fan of Chungking Express and remember reading that Quentin Tarantino cries when he watches it because he loves it so much. That’s how I feel when I watch the two Kill Bill movies. Within three minutes, I hear Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) and I’m transported into another world. It reminds me of what I'm in for. Every choice that Tarantino makes, from story, to dialogue and music, is absolutely perfect. I feel like he made this film with me in mind.

Uma Thurman was born to play the role of The Bride. I’m still not sure how she managed to keep a straight face as she spoke the dialogue.

It took me five years to bother seeing Kill Bill because I don't embrace things with senseless violence. The movie suggests extreme violence, but shows hardly any of it, just the result. The cuts are convincing and have the same effect as if you had seen the violent acts. I expected Thurman to prance around with a samurai sword, hacking people to pieces. In fact, she pretty much does, but there's so much more to the story.

First of all, she makes me care. Her back story makes her actions seem justified, but I also feel pity for O-Ren Ishii (Liu) when we see what happened to her when she was a child (brilliantly portrayed anime style). The film uses a number of tricks such as stills, black and white, slow motion, silhouettes, changing aspect ratios, and extreme close-ups. The pacing, humor, drama and action all seem to be woven together perfectly.

Kill Bill is a simple story of revenge. We learn in the opening scene that The Bride was shot in the head at her wedding rehearsal and spent four years in a coma as a result. The story isn’t linear, so the first person we see her kill is actually second on her Death List. Although it reveals that she successfully killed O-Ren Ishii by showing a line through her name, none of the tension is lost when we are shown their epic battle.

We see The Bride recover from her coma and visit Japan in search of O-Ren Ishii. There’s a great scene involving Sonny Chiba and we eventually see The Bride hunt down O-Ren Ishii and her minions. The showdown is approximately an hour long and it’s intense. Thurman looks like she can handle a sword and stunt double Zoe Bell handles the more difficult scenes.

It’s hard to think about the film without using the word perfect. The battle involves dozens of fighters as The Bride hacks her way through the obstacles standing between her and O-Ren Ishii. The contrast between those scenes and the final fight is stunning. Instead of being surrounded by a noisy mob, The Bride and O-Ren fight in a quiet setting. It’s a very effective transition.

I always watch Kill Bill Vol. 2 after seeing Vol. 1 and think of it as one long film. If you think that the characters feel incomplete, the concluding volume fleshes them out and makes them seem a lot more real. This first installment contains most of the action and fans of that genre should be happy with the result.

Video Quality 5/5
Kill Bill Vol. 1 looks fantastic on Blu-ray, even though it was released in 2008. Detail is strong throughout, whether the image is in color or black and white. Colors are rich and accurate and black levels won’t disappoint. I detected slight aliasing in one scene, but the overall presentation makes the film one of the best-looking live action films yet released on Blu-ray.

Audio Quality 5/5
The lossless English: LPCM 5.1 mix matches the excellent video quality. There’s a lot going on and it’s all separated well and presented accurately. Whether it’s the sound of swords clashing during the intense battle scenes, dialogue, feet crunching on cereal, or Daryl Hannah whistling the theme from Twisted Nerve, you’ll hear everything clearly.

Special Features 2/5

The extras are all presented in standard definition:

The Making of Kill Bill (22 minutes) – A decent feature with Tarantino and some of the cast and crew.

The 5, 6, 7, 8s Musical Performances (6 minutes) – Two songs from the band featured in the film.

Trailers – Six trailers for Tarantino’s films.

As I said at the start of this review, Kill Bill is so good that I’m close to tears within three minutes. It’s full of action and thrills, good music, and some of the funniest dialogue I have ever heard. I find myself watching both parts more than anything else in my collection and love every moment each time I give it a spin. It’s guaranteed to make me grin for four hours. If you like action and intelligent humor, I challenge you to name a better movie.

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