Strange as it may sound, despite being an avowed fan of Quentin Tarantino and ass-kickin’ action chicks, it has taken me this long to finally get around to purchasing the Kill Bill flicks on DVD. It’s no secret that QT originally intended them to be a single entity, and so I was always holding out for the ultimate integrated edition that he’s been promising since forever… but, give the man his due, he has been busy making some other pretty good movies in the meanwhile, so I can understand how he might have got distracted. After all these years, spying both discs for sale in a charity shop (in mint condition, no less) for the princely sum of £2 each, I was powerless to resist.
As noted by various critics, the splitting of the story resulted in some fans favouring one volume over the other… for instance, a film-buff friend of mine much prefers Vol. 2, while I’ve always been more partial to Vol. 1. Re-watching them again a week apart hasn’t changed my opinion much, although I appreciate the second instalment far more now than I did when I watched it at the cinema, thanks to my readjusted expectations… not lowered expectations, I hasten to add… I just know that it’s a more leisurely and verbal affair, compared to the cartoonish “Flash! Bang! Pow!” of the first volume. I vaguely recall a critic at the time ascribing the disparity to an Eastern/Western divide, but I’m not sure I know enough about the history of Cinema to comment on that… all I know is that the first one is funner, and here’s for why…
1) It has the better soundtrack. From the chilling opening track, “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” (by Nancy Sinatra), to the barnstorming slow-motion entrance of ‘O-Ren Ishii’ and her posse, backed by “Battle Without Honor or Humanity”, the power of the music is undeniable… even after all the advertising jackals snagged the best songs for their crappy little commercials, and the dancefloor DJs remixed all the life and soul out of them.
2) Best setting. All of these points are entirely subjective, I know… but I’m a serious sucker for the simplicity and style of Japanese interior design. Whenever I daydream about the ideal apartment in which to meditate and work… light, airy, uncluttered… it’s usually inspired by the ones I’ve seen in films like this one. I know Feng Shui is a Chinese concept, and it’s ignorant of me to mush the two nations/cultures together, but that’s the vibe I’m after… I’d love to visit Japan someday, and see if it encourages me to keep better habits, but somehow I suspect that I’d still find a way to clutter the place up.
3) Best villains. Again, totally subjective… I love Budd’s laconic penitence and self-imposed penance, and Daryl Hannah gives a great performance as ‘Elle’, sneering and snarling out from behind her custom eye-patches… but I’ve had a soft-spot for Lucy Liu ever since Ally McBeal, and you have to admit O-Ren sure knows how to throw down the gauntlet! The House of the Blue Leaves battle is an epic swirl of shiny swords, and spurting blood geysers… followed by a gorgeous, snow-dappled face-off in the rooftop garden. But before all that, we are introduced to ‘Gogo Yubari’ (Chiaki Kuriyama) and her hellacious “Meteor Hammer”. While I appreciate the salty, Jackass-inspired humour of the second volume’s fight scenes, there’s nothing there to compete with the thrill of watching GoGo wrap that chain around her foot, and fling a whirring ball of death at ‘The Bride’s’ (Uma Thurman) face, with a coquettish giggle and a psychotic glare.
4) Best costumes. The iconic yellow tracksuit… the Kato masks… O-Ren’s kimonos… ‘Sofie’s (Julie Dreyfus) “Star Trek villain” shirt… Elle’s nurse’s outfit (complete with red-cross eye-patch)… and, of course, GoGo’s immaculate school uniform… as a cartoonist and comic book fan, I love how stylised everything is. As ever, the haters can grumble about how QT is simply recycling other people’s imagery… but I really don’t care. Here his pop-culture kleptomania has given us some of the best-looking live-action-comic-book-characters ever seen on screen, and for that I am thankful.
5) Fantastic cliff-hanger. Obviously that wasn’t QT’s original intention, but I still remember the charge it gave me, sat there in the cinema. A total OMG moment. Rather than drawing us back for the concluding chapter with physical peril, he goes and throws an emotional spanner in the works instead… one that pays off fantastically, I admit, in Vol. 2, when The Bride finally learns what we already knew. Ack.
6) The mild rebuke “silly rabbit”, which is stuck in my head at the moment, and won’t leave… it’s certainly much nicer than what ‘Bill’ (David Carradine) calls The Bride, when they meet up!
There have long been rumours of further additions to the series, from a prequel to a sequel… according to the ever reliable Wikipedia, QT himself has stated that Kill Bill 3 will be his ninth film, and will be released in 2014, because he wants ten years to pass between the Bride’s last conflict, to give her a period of peace. Bless. Apparently GoGo was always supposed to have a sister, who would then seek revenge against The Bride, so maybe if we’re very lucky, Kuriyama could return as her own twin? Make it so!
Fun Bonus Fact: There used to be a magazine in this country called The Face, aimed at trendy hipster types, which ran a monthly competition for people to send in remixed or redesigned versions of their covers, for a feature called “DeFaced”. One month I sent in a typically sketchy, sake-fuelled drawing of their Chiaki Kuriyama cover, but lost out to some douche who’d drawn a sexed-up faux-Manga-style version of her instead. The very next month the magazine folded. So the moral of this story is, publish my work or be damned!