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Kill Bill Vol. 1 Print E-mail
Thursday, 18 September 2008
ImageDirector/writer Quentin Tarantino is sort of like a human refinery, distilling old movies rather than crude oil. Elements of low-budget exploitation movies from the ‘60s and ‘70s – American, Japanese, Hong Kong, Spanish, you name it – come together in his films in ways that are both previously undreamt-of and perfectly natural.

“Kill Bill Volume 1” continues this blending of styles, going from ‘70s grindhouse kung fu catfights to Hong Kong heroism to a samurai-esque duel to the death, all in service to a tale of epic vengeance. A character known only as The Bride or Black Mamba (Uma Thurman) has spent four years in a coma after being shot in the head by her former employer, Bill (David Carradine, heard but not clearly seen here). Bill has had his Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, of which Black Mamba was a star former member, shoot up The Bride’s wedding and killing everyone there, though Bill’s coup de grace to his erstwhile favorite didn’t take. The Bride awakens and manages to kill two guys in her hospital room (for understandable reasons) before she can even walk, but once she gets to her feet, she is unstoppable in her quest to put down everyone who led to her current state. For starters, there’s Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), onetime killer but now suburban mom of a four-year-old. Then there’s Tokyo crime queen O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), whose rise from orphan of murdered parents to feared gang boss gets its own extended flashback – animated with comic-book style art, no less.

The temporary shift to noir comics animation is just one of the almost countless loving riffs that Tarantino uses here. The extended climactic showdown between the lone Bride and O-Ren’s dozens of fighting henchpeople

Tarantino and Thurman conceived the character of The Bride together (the writing credits state the The Bride is “created by Q&U”) and as imagined and as played by Thurman, she is really something. Thurman comes off as a full-fledged action goddess here, yet gives the role an enormously warm and human dimension – she has integrity and a sly sense of humor along with her understandable rage, suggesting just enough vulnerability to allow us to be concerned for her without seeming too soft to take on an army. Tarantino is so enamored of the ‘70s dollar-movie experience that “Kill Bill Volume 1” actually begins with one of those colorful, slightly out of focus “Our Feature Presentation” bumpers, familiar to everybody old enough to recall this once-standard theatre accessory. Thankfully, his obsession with recreating the mood of the day does not extend to crappy ‘70s sound and picture quality throughout. Colors are beautiful, with some unusual combinations and contrasts. Tarantino gives us brilliant blood reds that stand out strikingly against the greenish hues of a hospital. There are vivid primary colors – blues, reds and yellows – while there is overall pristine white snow accented by a dark blue sky, green bushes, the Bride’s yellow costume and of course bright red blood.

Past Buena Vista Blu-ray releases have been haunted by edge enhancement and extreme noise reduction, which yielded a smooth yet blurring image.  So, naturally one might worry about these films being release on Blu-ray.  Well, worry no longer.  The video quality of "Kill Bill Vol. 1" is outstanding for its genre.  The details are extremely sharp, and yet the noise is minimal.  In fact, the noise adds some great texture to the film and is not distracting at all.  As mentioned earlier, the colors are exquisite.  The downside to the video quality lies in the blacks.  They are rich and intense, but to the point where shadow delineation is weak.  Often black clothing and black and white sequences appear crushed.  The details of Sophie's clothes blended together into a black drab.  However, the overall presentation is tremendous.

The audio quality is where the Blu-ray release truly shines.  From the very first sound to the very last, the sounds are enveloping and three-dimensional.  The original music by RZA is full-bodied sounding and very rich in timbre.  The Blu-ray transfer, in its uncompressed PCM 5.1 format, breathes even more life into the soundtrack.  Discrete effects are well defined.  The battle sequence between Uma Thurman and Vivica A. Fox in the living from of the house contains some superb sound design.  The shattering glass and body hits are detailed extremely well.  Dialogue is clear and well balanced.  The only flaw of the soundtrack would be the inconsistent use of the surround channels.  However, when they are used, they sound terrific.

The Blu-ray release of "Kill Bill Vol. 1" contains only the features that were present on the original DVD release.  Unfortunately, there is not much here.  There is about a 20-minute documentary on the making of the film.  There is a host of Quentin Tarantino film trailers.  And lastly, there are two song clips made from unused footage of the 5, 6, 7, 8s performing.  Sadly, the audio is quite poor for the two performances.  That's all.  The disc is really missing a good audio commentary.

"Kill Bill Vol. 1" is the type of film that you either love or hate.  If you think you hate it, give it another chance.  You may be shocked to find you actually like it.  The story, music score, characters, and acting are all terrific.  This Blu-ray release and film gets a strong recommendation from this reviewer.

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