Film review by Witney Seibold
Action is now officially over.
It’s unfair to compare the two separately released volumes of Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse epic. “Kill Bill” was written, shot, and even edited as one three-hour-plus kung-fu Götterdämmerung, so criticizing the second volume as a film by itself seems a little silly. Having now seen the entire film, I can, however, say that this is quite possibly the best action picture ever conceived. I usually am not a big fan of action pictures. A good action film can be fun or clever, of course. Even occasionally great. But, more often than is comfortable, I sense that the scenes in between the fights and chases – the real meat – is quickly-assembled fodder tossed out by uncaring executives who are more interested in style than substance. They want us to take the action seriously, but give us no humanity. I always want more human and less helicopter crash.
What Tarantino has done with “Kill Bill,” however, is take us the other way. I’d accuse the film of being style-over-substance if I sensed that it was trying to have any substance at all. Its style IS its substance. It’s a chop-socky chop-suey of every samurai flick, every kung-fu, every exploitation, revenge badass, blood spurting, punch throwing, kick dodging, sword chopping, decapitating, screw-The-Man, wire-flying, kickass-chick, eyeball-snatching, shoestring-budget, Eastern mysticism, back-section-of-the-video-store, late-night-on-channel-13-when-you’re-12, horror fight action movie that Tarantino has possibly laid eyes upon. It’s violent. It’s over-the-top. And it’s transcendent.
The story is paper-thin, and has the courage to knowledgeably remain paper-thin throughout the film’s entire running time. In fact, by the time we get to the end of this entire I-must-have-revenge mess that we’ve been following for over three hours (and more some of us, six months), after hacking through countless bodyguards, after knife-fighting in the suburbs, after nearly escaping an early burial, swordfighting in a trailer, reiterating and subplotting through flashbacks, and finally confronting the titular character (David Carradine, how perfect is that?), we actually are swept up in the sheer glorious trash of it all. We now want The Bride (Uma Thurman) to have her revenge. We care about this character. Not because we relate to her, but because we recognize her as a representation of every action hero from every story we’ve ever heard. She is the perfect watered-down action-movie archetype, and Tarantino has no qualms about giving that to us right up front. Bill Moyers should get off “Star Wars,” and look at “Kill Bill.”
Can any more action films be made after this one? Judging by the previews I saw before this film, I’d say the end is a long way off. But “Kill Bill” has become a new standard, a new beacon for action.