Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #438
Number of Views: Three
Release Dates: March 27, 2011 (The Whole Bloody Affair), October 10, 2003 (Vol. 1), April 16, 2004 (Vol. 2)
Sub-Genre: Martial Arts/Exploitation
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $60,000,000 ($30m each)
Box Office: $333,100,000 ($180.9m/$152.2m)
Running Time: 247 minutes (111 minutes/136 minutes)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Special Effects: Howard Berger, Greg Nicotero, Jason Gustafson
Visual Effects: Frankie Chung, Tommy Tom
Cinematography: Robert Richardson
Score: The RZA/Robert Rodriguez
Editing: Sally Menke
Studio: A Band Apart Productions
Distributor: Miramax Films
Stars: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, Sonny Chiba, Vivica A. Fox, Gordon Liu, Julie Dreyfus, Chiaki Kuriyama, Zoë Bell, Shin’ichi Chiba, Chia-Hui Liu, Michael Parks, James Parks, Michael Bowen, Bo Svenson, Christopher Allen Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson, Sid Haig
Suggested Audio Candy
 Nancy Sinatra “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”
 Tomoyasu Hotei “Battle Without Honor or Humanity”
 Ennio Morricone “Death Rides A Horse Theme”
 The 5 6 7 8’s “Woo Hoo”
“Revenge is never a straight line. It’s a forest, And like a forest it’s easy to lose your way… To get lost… To forget where you came in”
Retribution is a messy affair at best. I’ve never been a particularly vengeful spirit and traditionally leave it up to karma to dish out any just-desserts should any wrong-doing occur. There’s an old Chinese proverb which goes a little something like this: 害 人 之 心 不 可 有. Fret not if your Chinese isn’t up to scratch as it translates to “do not desire to hurt others in the depths of your heart”. I just see it as terribly counter-productive and what goes around has a canny way of coming back that way, should you choose this particular path. I have been wronged many times and, no doubt, will be again but I’ll leave it up to the gods to serve up this particularly wintry dish and carry on spreading the love. However, I do keep an unopened can of whoop handy, just in case certain loved ones become victims of foul play.
There are certain crimes so heinous that a simple ticking-off doesn’t suffice. Take The Bride (Uma Thurman) for example; in her case two wrongs may not equate to a right but they do help to numb the pain a little. An eye for an eye becomes kosher in such extenuating circumstances and, having had to endure the world’s most unromantic wedding rehearsal and being left for dead, she can’t really be held accountable for going a tad loco. Once a member of The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and lover of dojo don Bill (David Carradine), she was penalized somewhat unjustly for her wanderlust, and her womb relieved of Bill’s unborn baby, just to add a little extra sting to her miso soup. The old coup de grâce works every time.
The Bride’s “Death List Five” have long since disbanded and tracking them down will prove to be a fairly Mecca-esque undertaking in itself. Each of her four fellow deadly vipers must be toppled before she can deliver the kingpin the five-fingered death punch he’s got coming to him. Codenames Copperhead (Vivica A. Fox), Cottonmouth (Lucy Liu), Sidewinder (Michael Madsen), and California Mountain Snake (Daryl Hannah), will be required to pay a princely sum for their part in said indiscretion and then it’s onto the old Snake Charmer himself for a cup of green tea and one last fist fucking, only this time, she’ll be the one delivering that penetrating final blow. Her skills as Black Mamba may well be rusty and, to the untrained eye, she may appear to be simply Beatrix Kiddo now but looks can be mighty deceiving.
First things first. The road ahead will be a long one, twisting and turning like the serpents who slither its trail, so one final cabin check is in order to make sure to ensure all seats are in their upright position before taking her seat in this flight plan. Wouldn’t you know it? Ten busted up toes just won’t do. The Bride will be needing those where she’s headed and Onitsuka Tigers aren’t the most accommodating of ass-stomping footwear to set out in. If the part of Kiddo was a thirtieth birthday gift to Thurman from Tarantino, then I’m fairly assured he wrote the whole foot scene in as a little pat on his own back for such an act of kindness. We can almost hear him slobbering behind the lens as we take the slowest zoom in movie history towards those cuticles. Having gotten more up close and personal than a pumice stone, she finally achieves her wiggle and, this time, we can discern a vague groan of disappointment from that same corner.
Now that her getaway sticks are back in commission, it’s off to snuff out some double-dealing snakes and begin her quest for understanding why such atrocities befell her in the first place. She gets that The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad isn’t the kind of institution one simply walks away from but her beloved Bill, of all people, should have applied a little perspective before snatching away their progeny so unceremoniously. A dash of restraint would have saved a whole lot of heartbreak but there can be no tears shed over lactose spilled and can be only one temperature at which revenge should be served. So, on to suitor number one, and a reasonably gentle introduction for The Bride by all accounts.
Vernita Green, or Copperhead to be more precise, stands charged with standing over her body just before her big boss bust that treacherous cap and not hearing her tap-out, just like her associates. Since pissing on Kiddo’s bonfire, she has left the life of an assassin behind her, married a doctor, and spawned an innocent. Living that suburban dream under the alias of Jeanne Bell, Copperhead still has her vast skill set to fall back on but focuses more time into preparing peanut jelly sandwiches now than she does practicing her once legendary edged-weapon skills.
While coming up short with regarding hand-to-hand combat, her cluttered homestead offers numerous environmental weapons, disguised as common objects. This is the ideal warm-up for Beatrix before any sterner tests ahead.
The half-Japanese, half-Chinese-American, O-Ren Ishii, knows only too well about loss, having witnessed the brutal slaying of her parents at the tender age of nine to Yakuza. Emotional scars take a long time to heal, thus Ishii dedicated her life to becoming an expert assassin and earned the Crazy 88 as her own personal entourage in the process.
Now residing at the dubious sounding House of Blue Leaves, with lawyer friend Sofie Fatale (Julie Dreyfuss), and personal head henchgirl, Gogo Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama), she continues to work on her proficiency for sword fighting and marksmanship when not lopping the heads off any pitiful associates who fail to take a bow regularly enough. Formidable would be the key word here, while quiet reverence must be paid by both women when squaring up for their punishing duel. Don’t even get me started on Gogo; she gets her very own formal introduction.
“Do you still wish to penetrate me?… Or is it I who has penetrated you?”
Armed with a meteor hammer no less, Gogo proves to be the ideal training dummy for The Bride as she closes in on her true target. One of Tarantino’s favorite all-time movies is Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale and quite rightly so it must be said. Kuriyama’s turn as Takako left quite the impression and, while the part almost fell to other Royale cast members, she couldn’t be better suited to knee-high socks and an airborne death sphere to give teacher phantasms.
Their melee is brief but also significant as, when gifted the chance to vacate the blood-drenched restaurant intact, Cottonmouth’s head girl earns her gold star and stands firm. Should Tarantino ever feel like elaborating this glorious character further in another capacity; I’ll be the first in line to shine her apple.
“That woman deserves her revenge. And we deserve to die. But then again, so does she.”
Now, Budd’s a whole different kettle of sushi entirely. This redneck degenerate was the only other male Deadly Viper Squad member and the only man older and wiser brother Bill ever loved. Budd even went so far as to engrave this affectionate epigraph into his hand crafted Hanzo blade, not that he can wield it particularly well. It is all he can do now to grasp his liquor having allowed standards to slip some and taking up residency in his very own trailer park.
The hair of the dog awaits him every sundown as he returns to the local strip joint where he is employed as bouncer. Clearly The Bride will be required to modify her approach some when tackling this snake in the grass. Fighting fire with fire seems to be the way as our Black Mamba bids to outfox his pre-loaded revolver buddies.
California Mountain Snake
Elle Driver presents perhaps the most potent arrow in Bill’s quiver. She remains fiercely loyal to her master and it has been implied that she also engaged in relations with him, leading to drawn swords and hateful glances between the two each time they share a vicinity. A most adept swordswoman, Elle begrudgingly respects her opposite number, but has no problem with cutting this bitch down to size either.
Having learned the art of Bak Mei from enigmatic educator Pai Mei (Gordon Liu) and then disrespecting him by pulling out the obvious “miserable old fool” chestnut, she earned herself an eye-patch for her insolent outburst as the right peeper-plucking Pai Mei made his point in no uncertain terms. You don’t diss teacher Elle. Such foolishness is deserving of your sole sentinel status if you ask me and I’m fully aware that you didn’t. This showdown will prove particularly punishing as there is precious little to choose from the two gangly executioners.
Let’s come up for air shall we before blowing our stash and hurtling into Bill’s backyard like boisterous buffalo. Should Beatrix wish to reach her hard target, then the Five-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique and Three-inch punch will likely prove incalculable. Pai Mei can school her lily-white ass on such attack tools but is also feeling a little crabby having had his fish heads poisoned by Elle during her earlier pre-menstrual strop. Back in the year 1003 this ivory-haired dragon slaughtered sixty Shaolin monks on account of a simple misunderstanding.
This is the last man on earth whose monobrow you should ridicule and, to make matters worse for Kiddo, he is utterly contemptuous of both Caucasians and women in general, particularly the American variety. Hence, the retrieval of pails of water via winding stone staircase, and other menial tasks before he will give up that sacred secret. On the plus side, she’ll finally be able to eat white rice using chopsticks.
Founder of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and the worst possible lover to leave jilted; Bill represents the final piece of the puzzle for The Bride. Having started as student of Pai Mei and also Hattori Hanzō, who he eventually betrayed, he has been implicated in all manner of other injustices, one of which being the slaughter of O-Ren Ishii’s parents.
As much as his bogus actions at Two Pines Wedding Chapel may appear to have been based on erratic impulse, she did admittedly do him a disservice by tricking him into believing she had been assassinated when fleeing their love nest. After dedicating his time to tracking down her aggressors, and learning of her deception, he was understandably a touch miffed. However, a sound pummeling would have done it. Perhaps, in hindsight, the decimation of her entire guest list including fiancé, and everything-must-go ovary sweep, could be deemed as excessive. But, aside from his occasional sideline in massacring innocents, he’s just plain old Bill.
Tantalizingly close to her nuptials when her idyllic life was callously snatched from her very fingertips, our embittered bride is understandably way beyond a simple apology and polite handshake. Somebody has to pay for this foul treachery as somebody invariably always does. While her conscience is far from clear, her goal remains single-minded, that being to kill Bill. Talk about a selfish gift; Tarantino’s heart was unmistakably in the right place when writing The Bride with Thurman alone in mind, but he reaped his own rewards as she went on to become one of the most iconic female characters in modern cinema.
Still clutching on to that beauty despite a fairly rotten run of misfortune; she procrastinates not in showing off her beast mode. Her lanky frame is ideal but it’s the steel in her eyes that makes this ferociously independent woman one for all to fear.
That’s some roster. It’s no small wonder that Tarantino opted to release this four-hour marathon in two bite-sized chunks when presenting it as his fourth feature-length feast. In 2011, he finally gifted us the complete edit in one flavorsome rump roast with Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair. Contrary to disconcerting public opinion that Volume 2 contains too much gristle and not nearly enough lean, I am of the sturdy mind that both segments stand toe-to-toe with no outright victor. If anything, I relish the additional exposition provided by the latter as, of all Quentin’s multitude of talents, exotic dialogue is surely one of the most consistently gratifying and there’s plentiful fat to be chewed here. The overarching score Kill Bill attains sums up its parts rather well, but let it be known, that I consider that digit a clean 50:50 split. This is one solitary movie and burning need never be spurning when offering it in excess of four hours of your precious time without intermission.
One thing that the director has absolutely no issue with doing is naming and framing his personal heroes. There are an embarrassment of riches to be found with the various techniques he employs to tell his tale and he wears his heart on his sleeve when dipping into each font. Toshiya Fujita’s Lady Snowblood provides the template for the whole affair, while inspiration is borrowed from everything from the blaxploitation sub-genre to the spaghetti western and conferred through delicious wide-screen.
Its pastiche is one, not only comprising golden oldies, but also contemporary Japanese storytelling techniques, particularly anime. Where The Wachowskis meticulously polish their gemstones, concealing delicate hints of their motivation beneath thick layers of gloss, Tarantino simply leaves each reference out to graze. Some may find any stylized sections distracting but I would liken them to our very own greatest hits and welcome each divine deviation.
The way in which it shifts from placid kiss, kissing to intoxicating bang, banging suggests an almost bi-polar approach to filmmaking which ultimately keeps both camps happy. The Bride may know exactly how to talk the talk, but walking the walk is also in her vast repertoire of endowments and once that first piggy wiggles, and Quentin takes his personal five-minute refreshment break after filming such an exhaustive scene, the amount of chaos and mayhem she turns over amounts to every last one of our birthdays rolled into one. Let it be known that independently the two films warrant a score of nine from Keeper. However, I lost interest in mathematics the moment I heard the word trigonometry, thus the sum of its parts just has to amount to the shiny ten you see below. I’ve dished out a fair few of these of late and some may suspect that I have taken temporary leave of my senses. Well all five of them are reporting the very same findings and, besides, I’m speaking of the crème de la crème here. Mulholland Drive, Enter The Void, and now Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair have all touched this nosebleed-inducing void. If you’ve got any problem with that; take it up with Bill.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 10/10
Grue Factor: 5/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Considered gratuitous in its brutality by some; there is actually some restraint to Tarantino’s methodology, thus certain scenes shooting in black and white to sneak this past the MPAA. Much of the footage deemed excessive has since been restored and boy what a platter of splatter. Heads roll, scalps fly, eyeballs are plucked and downtrodden, neck ties sliced, appendages subtracted, exit wounds facilitated, axes ground, snake venom spat, 88 crazy bastards dismembered, five fingers clenched into a point, yet still only one Bill is killed in the making of this motion picture. You want restraint; you’ve got it. Don’t worry Paxton and Pullman; you guys have nothing to fret over. But as for Cosby; well his favorite sweater must be earning its keep right now. One final toe jam in honor of all things fetish and, to Quentin, Thurman’s slow burning big toe rumba may be the closest he has ever come to shooting that porno.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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