Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

Movie


Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (original title)

The lead character, called 'The Bride,' was a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, led by her lover 'Bill.' Upon realizing she was pregnant with Bill's child, 'The Bride' decided to escape her life as a killer. She fled to Texas, met a young man, who, on the day of their wedding rehearsal was gunned down by an angry and jealous Bill (with the assistance of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad). Four years later, 'The Bride' wakes from a coma, and discovers her baby is gone. She, then, decides to seek revenge upon the five people who destroyed her life and killed her baby. The saga of Kill Bill Volume I begins.
USA
Japan
IMDb   8.1 /10
Metacritic   69 %
TheMovieDb    8.0 /10
RottenTomatoes  85 %
FilmAffinity   7.6 /10
Information
Release Date2003-10-10
Runtime1h 51mins
GenreAction, Crime, Drama, Thriller
Content RatingR (R)
AwardsTop Rated Movies #173 | Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 29 wins & 102 nominations.
CompanyMiramax, A Band Apart, Super Cool ManChu
CountryUSA, Japan
LanguageEnglish, Japanese, French
O-Ren Ishii
Vernita Green
Elle Driver
Sofie Fatale
Hattori Hanzo (as Sonny Chiba)
Johnny Mo (as Gordon Liu)
Boss Tanaka
Bald Guy (Sushi Shop) (as Kenji Oba)

Kill Bill: Volume 1

Kill Bill: Volume 1 is a 2003 American martial arts film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. It stars Uma Thurman as the Bride, who swears revenge on a team of assassins (Lucy Liu, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, and Vivica A. Fox) and their leader, Bill (David Carradine), after they try to kill her and her unborn child. Her journey takes her to Tokyo, where she battles the yakuza.

Tarantino conceived Kill Bill as a homage to grindhouse cinema, including martial arts films, samurai cinema, blaxploitation, and spaghetti Westerns. It features an anime sequence by Production I.G. It is the first of two Kill Bill films made in a single production; they were planned as a single release, but the film, with a runtime of over four hours, was divided in two. Volume 2 was released the following year. Volume 1 grossed over $180 million on a $30 million budget.


Plot

A woman in a wedding dress, the Bride, lies wounded in a chapel in El Paso, Texas, having been attacked by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. She tells their leader, Bill, that she is pregnant with his baby just before he shoots her in the head.

Four years later, having survived the attack, the Bride goes to the home of Vernita Green (A.K.A Copperhead), planning to kill her. Both women were members of the Deadly Vipers, which has since disbanded; Vernita now leads a normal suburban family life. They engage in a knife fight which is interrupted when Vernita's young daughter Nikki arrives home from school. The Bride agrees to meet Vernita at night to settle the matter, but when Vernita tries to shoot the Bride with a pistol hidden in a box of cereal, the Bride throws a knife into Vernita's chest, killing her. Nikki witnesses the killing, and the Bride offers her a chance to avenge her mother's death when she grows up, should she choose to do so.

Four years earlier, police investigate the massacre at the wedding chapel. The sheriff discovers that the Bride is alive but comatose. In the hospital, Deadly Viper Elle Driver prepares to assassinate the Bride via lethal injection, but Bill aborts the mission at the last moment, considering it dishonorable to kill the defenseless Bride.

Awakening from her four-year coma, the Bride is horrified to find that she is no longer pregnant. She kills a man who tries to rape her and a hospital worker who has been selling her body while she was comatose. She takes the hospital worker's truck and teaches herself to walk again.

Resolving to kill Bill and the other Deadly Vipers, the Bride picks her first target: O-Ren Ishii, now the leader of the Tokyo yakuza. After witnessing the yakuza murder her parents when she was a child, O-Ren took vengeance on the yakuza boss and replaced him after training as an elite assassin. The Bride travels to Okinawa, Japan, to obtain a sword from legendary swordsmith Hattori Hanzō, who has sworn never to forge a sword again. After learning that her target is Bill, his former student, he relents and crafts his finest sword for her, taking a month to finish the job.

The Bride tracks O-Ren to the House of Blue Leaves, a Tokyo restaurant, and amputates the arm of her assistant, Sofie Fatale. She defeats the Crazy 88, O-Ren's squad of elite fighters, and kills her bodyguard, schoolgirl Gogo Yubari. O-Ren and the Bride duel in the restaurant's Japanese garden; the Bride gains the upper hand and kills O-Ren by slicing off the top of her head. After torturing Sofie for information about Bill and the other Deadly Vipers, the Bride leaves her alive as a threat while going to kill her second target - Vernita. Bill finds Sofie and asks her if the Bride knows that her daughter is alive.


Cast

  • Uma Thurman as the Bride (code name Black Mamba), a former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, described as "the deadliest woman in the world". She seeks revenge on the Deadly Vipers after they try to kill her and her unborn child in a wedding chapel.
  • Lucy Liu as O-Ren Ishii (code name Cottonmouth), a former Deadly Viper who has become the leader of the Japanese Yakuza. She and the Bride once had a close friendship. She is the Bride's first target.
  • David Carradine as Bill (code name Snake Charmer), the former leader of the Deadly Vipers, the Bride's former lover, and the father of her daughter. He is the final target of the Bride's revenge. He is an unseen character until Volume 2.
  • Vivica A. Fox as Vernita Green (code name Copperhead), a former Deadly Viper and now a mother and homemaker, living under the name Jeannie Bell. She is the Bride's second target
  • Michael Madsen as Budd (code name Sidewinder), a former Deadly Viper and Bill's brother, now working as a strip club bouncer and living in a trailer. He is the Bride's third target
  • Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver (code name California Mountain Snake), a former Deadly Viper and the Bride's fourth target
  • Julie Dreyfus as Sofie Fatale, O-Ren's lawyer, confidante, and second lieutenant. She is also a former protégée of Bill's, and was present at the wedding chapel massacre
  • Sonny Chiba as Hattori Hanzō, a wise sushi chef and long-retired master swordsmith who agrees to craft a sword just for the Bride
  • Chiaki Kuriyama as Gogo Yubari, O-Ren's sadistic Japanese schoolgirl bodyguard
  • Gordon Liu as Johnny Mo, head of O-Ren's personal army, the Crazy 88
  • Michael Parks as Earl McGraw, a Texas Ranger who investigates the wedding chapel massacre. Parks originated McGraw in the Robert Rodriguez film From Dusk till Dawn, which Tarantino wrote and acted in. He would go on to reprise the role in both segments of the Rodriguez/Tarantino collaboration Grindhouse. Parks also appeared in Volume 2 as a separate character, Esteban Vihaio
  • Michael Bowen as Buck, an orderly at the hospital who has been raping the Bride while she lay comatose
  • Jun Kunimura as Boss Tanaka, a yakuza whom O-Ren executes after he ridicules her ethnicity and gender
  • Kenji Ohba as Shiro, Hattori Hanzo's employee
  • James Parks as Edgar McGraw, a Texas Ranger and son of Earl McGraw
  • Jonathan Loughran as Buck's trucker client, killed by the Bride after he attempts to rape her
  • Yuki Kazamatsuri as the Proprietress of the House of Blue Leaves
  • Sakichi Sato as "Charlie Brown", a House of Blue Leaves employee who is mocked by the Crazy 88, as he wears a kimono similar to the shirt worn by the Peanuts character.
  • Ambrosia Kelley as Nikki Bell, Vernita's four-year-old daughter. She witnesses the Bride killing her mother, and the Bride suggests that she seek revenge when she gets older, if she still "feel raw about it".
  • The 5.6.7.8's (Sachiko Fuji, Yoshiko Yamaguchi and Ronnie Yoshiko Fujiyama) as themselves, performing at the House of Blue Leaves

Production

Writing

Writer-director Quentin Tarantino and actress Uma Thurman conceived the Bride character during the production of Tarantino's 1994 film Pulp Fiction; Kill Bill credits the story to "Q & U". Tarantino spent a year and a half writing the script while he was living in New York City in 2000 and 2001, spending time with Thurman and her newborn daughter Maya. Reuniting with the more mature Thurman, now a mother, influenced the way Tarantino wrote the Bride character; he did not come to the realization that the Bride's child could still be alive until the end of the writing process. He originally wrote Bill for Warren Beatty, but as the character developed and the role required greater screen time and martial arts training, he rewrote it for David Carradine. Tarantino decided to cast Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver after seeing her performance in the television film First Target. The physical similarities between Thurman and Hannah inspired how he wrote the rivalry between the two characters.

An early draft included a chapter set after the confrontation with Vernita in which the Bride has a gunfight with Gogo Yubari's vengeful sister Yuki. It was cut because it would have made the film overlong and added $1 million to the budget. Another draft featured a scene in which the Bride's car is blown up by Elle Driver.

Filming

When Thurman became pregnant as shooting was ready to begin, Tarantino delayed the production, saying: "If Josef Von Sternberg is getting ready to make Morocco and Marlene Dietrich gets pregnant, he waits for Dietrich!" Although the scenes are presented out of chronological order, the film was shot in sequence. Choreographer Woo-Ping Yuen, whose previous credits include The Matrix, was the film's martial arts advisor. The anime sequence, covering O-Ren Ishii's backstory, was directed by Kazuto Nakazawa and produced by Production I.G, which had produced films including Ghost in the Shell and Blood: The Last Vampire. The combined production lasted 155 days and had a budget of $55 million.

According to Tarantino, the most difficult part of making the film was "trying to take myself to a different place as a filmmaker and throw my hat in the ring with other great action directors", as opposed to the dialogue scenes he was known for. The House of Blue Leaves sequence, in which the Bride battles dozens of yakuza soldiers, took eight weeks to film, six weeks over schedule. Tarantino wanted to create "one of the greatest, most exciting sequences in the history of cinema". The crew eschewed computer-generated imagery in favor of traditional practical effects used in 1970s Chinese cinema, particularly by director Chang Cheh, including the use of fire extinguishers and condoms to create spurts and explosions of blood. Tarantino told his crew: "Let's pretend we're little kids and we're making a Super 8 movie in our back yard, and you don't have all this shit. How would you achieve this effect? Ingenuity is important here!"

Editing

Kill Bill was planned and produced as a single film. After shooting ended and editing began, producer Harvey Weinstein, who was known for pressuring filmmakers to shorten their films, suggested that Tarantino split the film in two. This meant Tarantino did not have to cut scenes, such as the anime sequence. Tarantino told IGN: "I'm talking about scenes that are some of the best scenes in the movie, but in this hurdling pace where you're trying to tell only one story, that would have been the stuff that would have had to go. But to me, that's kind of what the movie was, are these little detours and these little grace notes." The decision to split the film was announced in July 2003.

Car crash

Near the end of filming, Thurman was injured in a crash while filming the scene in which she drives to Bill. According to Thurman, she was uncomfortable driving the car and asked a stunt driver to do it; Tarantino assured her that the car and road were safe. She lost control of the car and hit a tree, suffering a concussion and damage to her knees. Thurman requested the crash footage, but Miramax would only release it, in Thurman's words, if she signed a document "releasing them of any consequences of future pain and suffering". Tarantino was apologetic, but he and Thurman were acrimonious for years afterwards; she said after the accident she "went from being a creative contributor and performer to being like a broken tool". Miramax released the footage in 2018 after Thurman went to police following the accusations of sexual abuse by producer Harvey Weinstein.

Music

As with Tarantino's previous films, Kill Bill features a diverse soundtrack; genres include country music and Spaghetti Western scores by Ennio Morricone. Bernard Herrmann's theme from the film Twisted Nerve is whistled by the menacing Elle Driver in the hospital scene. A brief, 15-second excerpt from the opening of the Ironside theme music by Quincy Jones is used as the Bride's revenge motif, which flares up with a red-tinged flashback whenever she is in the company of her next target. Instrumental tracks from Japanese guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei figure prominently, and after the success of Kill Bill they were frequently used in American TV commercials and at sporting events. As the Bride enters "The House of Blue Leaves", go-go group the 5,6,7,8's perform "I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield," "I'm Blue (The Gong-Gong Song)" and "Woo Hoo". The connection to Lady Snowblood is further established by the use of "The Flower of Carnage" the closing theme from that film. James Last's "The Lonely Shepherd" by pan flute virtuoso Gheorghe Zamfir plays over the closing credits. The theme from The Green Hornet plays when the Bride is flying to and arriving in Japan.


Influences

Kill Bill was inspired by grindhouse films that played in cheap US theaters in the 1970s, including martial arts films, samurai cinema, blaxploitation films, and spaghetti westerns. It homages the Shaw Brothers Studio, known for its martial arts films, with the inclusion of the ShawScope logo in its opening titles and the "crashing zoom", a fast zoom usually ending in a close-up commonly used in Shaw Brothers films. The Kinji Fukasaku Battles Without Honor and Humanity series main soundtrack theme, particularly its reinterpretation in the 2000 film, was utilized heavily in the film.

The Bride's yellow tracksuit, helmet and motorcycle resemble those used by Bruce Lee in the 1972 martial arts film Game of Death. The animated sequence homages violent anime films such as Golgo 13: The Professional (1983) and Wicked City (1987). According to Indian director Anurag Kashyap, Tarantino told him that Kamal Hassan's Aalavandhan (Abhay), a 2001 live-action film that featured an animated murder sequence, was another influence.

The Guardian wrote that Kill Bill's plot shares similarities with the 1973 Japanese film Lady Snowblood, in which a woman kills off the gang who murdered her family, and observed that like how Lady Snowblood used stills and illustration for "parts of the narrative that were too expensive to film", Kill Bill similarly used "Japanese-style animation to break up the narrative". The plot also resembles the 1968 French film The Bride Wore Black, in which a bride seeks revenge on five gang members and strikes them off a list as she kills them.


Release

Theatrical release

Kill Bill: Volume 1 was released in theaters on October 10, 2003. It was the first Tarantino film in six years, following Jackie Brown in 1997. In the United States and Canada, Volume 1 was released in 3,102 theaters and grossed $22 million on its opening weekend. Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, said Volume 1's opening weekend gross was significant for a "very genre specific and very violent" film that in the United States was restricted to theatergoers 17 years old and up. It ranked first at the box office, beating School of Rock (in its second weekend) and Intolerable Cruelty (in its first). Volume 1 had the widest theatrical release and highest-grossing opening weekend of a Tarantino film to date; Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction (1994) had each grossed $9.3 million on their opening weekends. According to the studio, exit polls showed that 90% of the audience was interested in seeing the second Kill Bill after seeing the first.

Outside the United States and Canada, Kill Bill: Volume 1 was released in 20 territories. The film outperformed its main competitor Intolerable Cruelty in Norway, Denmark and Finland, though it ranked second in Italy. Volume 1 had a record opening in Japan, though expectations were higher due to the film being partially set there and because of its homages to Japanese martial arts cinema. It had "a muted entry" in the United Kingdom and Germany due to its 18 certificate, but "experienced acceptable drops" after its opening weekend in the two territories. By November 2, 2003, it had made $31 million in the 20 territories. It grossed a total of $70 million in the United States and Canada and $110.9 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $180.9 million.

Home media

In the United States, Volume 1 was released on DVD and VHS on April 13, 2004, the week Volume 2 was released in theaters. In a December 2005 interview, Tarantino addressed the lack of a special edition DVD for Kill Bill by stating "I've been holding off because I've been working on it for so long that I just wanted a year off from Kill Bill and then I'll do the big supplementary DVD package." After one week of release, the film's DVD sales had surpassed its $70 million US box office gross.

The United States does not have a DVD boxed set of Kill Bill, though box sets of the two separate volumes are available in other countries, such as France, Japan and the United Kingdom. Upon the DVD release of Volume 2 in the US, however, Best Buy did offer an exclusive box set slipcase to house the two individual releases together. Volume 1, along with Volume 2, was released in High Definition on Blu-ray on September 9, 2008, in the United States. As of March 2012, Volume 1 sold 141,456 Blu-ray units in the US, grossing $1,477,791.


Reception

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Kill Bill: Volume 1 has a score of 85% based on reviews from 238 critics; the average rating is 7.70/10. Its consensus reads: "Kill Bill is admittedly little more than a stylish revenge thriller – albeit one that benefits from a wildly inventive surfeit of style." At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score 69 out of 100 based on 43 reviews from mainstream critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.

A. O. Scott of The New York Times wrote:

While being so relentlessly exposed to a filmmaker's idiosyncratic turn-ons can be tedious and off-putting, the undeniable passion that drives Kill Bill is fascinating, even, strange to say it, endearing. Mr. Tarantino is an irrepressible showoff, recklessly flaunting his formal skills as a choreographer of high-concept violence, but he is also an unabashed cinephile, and the sincerity of his enthusiasm gives this messy, uneven spectacle an odd, feverish integrity.

Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times called Kill Bill: Volume 1 a "blood-soaked valentine to movies. ... It's apparent that Tarantino is striving for more than an off-the-rack mash note or a pastiche of golden oldies. It is, rather, his homage to movies shot in celluloid and wide, wide, wide, wide screen — an ode to the time right before movies were radically secularized." She also recognized Tarantino's technical talent, but thought the film's appeal was too limited to popular culture references, calling its story "the least interesting part of the whole equation". Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it 4 out of 4, describing Tarantino as "effortlessly and brilliantly in command of his technique". He wrote: "The movie is not about anything at all except the skill and humor of its making. It's kind of brilliant."

Cultural historian Maud Lavin states that the Bride's embodiment of revenge taps into viewers' personal fantasies of committing violence. For audiences, particularly women viewers, the character provides a complex site for identification with one's own aggression.

Accolades

Uma Thurman received a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination in 2004. She was also nominated in 2004 for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, in addition with four other BAFTA nominations. Kill Bill: Volume 1 was placed in Empire Magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Films of All Time at number 325 and the Bride was also ranked number 66 in Empire magazine's "100 Greatest Movie Characters". Neither Kill Bill movie received any Academy Awards (Oscars) nominations.

Awards
AwardCategoryRecipient(s)Outcome
57th British Academy Film Awards
Best ActressUma ThurmanNominated
Best EditingSally MenkeNominated
Best Film MusicRZANominated
Best SoundMichael Minkler, Myron Nettinga, Wylie Stateman, and Mark UlanoNominated
Best Visual EffectsTommy Tom, Kia Kwan, Tam Wai, Kit Leung, Jaco Wong, and Hin LeungNominated
9th Empire Awards
Best FilmKill Bill: Volume 1Nominated
Best ActressUma ThurmanWon
Best DirectorQuentin TarantinoWon
Sony Ericsson Scene of the YearThe House of the Blue LeavesNominated
61st Golden Globe AwardsBest Actress – Motion Picture DramaUma ThurmanNominated
2004 MTV Movie AwardsBest Female PerformanceUma ThurmanWon
Best VillainLucy LiuWon
Best FightUma Thurman vs. Chiaki KuriyamaWon
2003 Satellite Awards
Best Art Direction/Production DesignKill Bill: Volume 1Nominated
Best Original ScreenplayQuentin Tarantino and Uma ThurmanNominated
Best SoundKill Bill: Volume 1Nominated
Best Visual EffectsKill Bill: Volume 1Nominated
30th Saturn Awards
Best Action/Adventure FilmKill Bill: Volume 1Won
Best ActressUma ThurmanWon
Best Supporting ActorSonny ChibaNominated
Best Supporting ActressLucy LiuNominated
Best DirectorQuentin TarantinoNominated
Best ScreenplayQuentin TarantinoNominated
Genre Face of the FutureChiaki KuriyamaNominated

Legacy

Kill Buljo is a 2007 Norwegian parody of Kill Bill set in Finnmark, Norway, and portrays Jompa Tormann's hunt for Tampa and Papa Buljo. The film satirizes stereotypes of Norway's Sami population. According to the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, Tarantino approved of the parody.

The Pussy Wagon vehicle from Kill Bill: Volume 1 made a cameo in the music video for Lady Gaga's song "Telephone" at Tarantino's behest.


Sequel

Kill Bill: Volume 2 was released in April 2004. It continues the Bride's quest to kill Bill and the remaining members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Volume 2 was also a critical and commercial success, earning over $150 million.