One of my 5 minute reviews from 2003. These are reviews that I write in about 5 minutes, as soon as I get home from watching the movie.
Kill Bill is the best made, most technically skilled and most exciting action film that I have ever dis-liked. This is a film that is a step back for Tarantino as an artist. While it is true that he displays a very impressive mastery of the chosen genre it is also true that he disappoints in the paucity of any another dimension beyond style. This is a Bacchic feast of form but it lacks even a side dish of substance and what substantial content it offers is drowned out and made dysfunctional by the form.
After a brutally violent wedding murder scene, Uma Thurman's character wakes up after a lengthy coma to discover that her baby has been lost. A long and sympathetic camera lingers on her as her sorrow and rage pours out of her. The problem is that because of the onslaught that has just occurred we cannot really feel for her. Such an emotionally powerfull scene is reduced to being perceived as a drawn-out filler until more cartoonish action can be served up.
As it turns out, the actual cartoon segment in the film works really well. The Japanese style anime is very stylishly done, with excellent movement of perspective. Many of the other segments of the movie which can also be described as cartoonish also are technically successful. I understand that it is an exercise in referential filmmaking, an homage to various genres and it succeeds as a tour de force of an action martial arts film. There is however the odour of American over-acheivement. It is as if Tarantino is trying to prove that he can out-do the genre and bring it to some ultimate conclusion. The goal it seems is to make something that teenage boys can argue is the last word in a martial arts action film. It is as if we are to be awed and humbled and dared to make another film of this genre after seeing Kill Bill.
The intent itself seems unable to overcome the boyish fight fantasies it portrays. Tarantino throws down the gauntlet in some imagined competition to be crowned the uber-geek. He might win that contest and be awarded such laurels by the academy of cinema geeks but he has brought himself down a rung in the pantheon of auteur filmmakers. What has he really done that could not be achieved by countless other directors given enough time and budget to do so?
This work is not produced through the subtle insights of a talented director - and talented he surely is - the kinetic overabundance is mainly the result of having enough time and money to out-do other filmmakers. Perhaps Tarantino was stung or even ostracised by the members of that diaspora that I call the Academy of Cinema Geeks after he made Jackie Brown. Perhaps he felt that he had lost their respect and wowed to win them back. In many ways Jackie Brown is better at showcasing those more rarefied directorial talents. The ability to invent a sympathetic soul with whom the viewer can empathize is more difficult than throwing enough money at an action sequence to numb the senses. There are those who will say that my estimation of this film is really beside the point, that Tarantino intended it to be just such a movie. With this I would agree. He has indeed succeeded in his aim. My disappointment lies in the fact that he is capable of so much more and I wish he would draw again and re-aim.