The plot in a nutshell
The film is about a very simple idea - revenge. A woman is a member of the
Deadly Viper Assassins. Pregnant and in love, she decides it's time to
leave - but that's not the way things work. The other four assasins, along
with the leader, Bill, make an appearance at the wedding, and kill everyone
in attendance. Leaving Black Mamba for dead (Uma Thurman), they disappear
again. But she's not quite dead, and recovers from a coma. Now without
everything that mattered to her, she sets off to hunt them down and kill
This is Tarantino's fourth film as director, after Pulp Fiction, Reservoir
Dogs and Jackie Brown. The film was considered too long at the final edited
time, and rather than edit it further, Tarentino decided to cut the film in
two. This is 'volume 1', with volume 2 to be released early in 2004.
Relatively Spoiler Free Thoughts
This is classic Tarantino, but that's not necessarily a good thing. Is this
a bad film? I don't think so, although there will be plenty of sensible
folks who think it is. But if this flick gets any sort of Oscar
consideration, it will be purely on the basis of Tarentino's name.
The plot is as thin as possible, just enough story to tie together a series
of brutal, over the top deaths. The film is an homage to every goofy, cheap
chop socky flick ever made, with particular nods to Bruce Lee (the orange
jumper, the Kato masks, even the use of the Green Hornet theme music). From
the opening credits, with the grainy, cheap film, to the inclusion of Sonny
Chiba, the film pays it's respects to the entire genre.
And speaking of Sonny, the scenes including him as a current bar owner,
ex-sword maker are some of the best in the film. It's the only time we get
the trademark Tarantino witty dialogue, something this movie could have used
a little more of.
If a Kevin Smith film is dialog heavy, this flick is dialog extra lite. The
focus here is the action, and that is done very well. Sure, there's some
wire work, and on occasion - especially during the big battle of the 88
Katos - it goes over the top. But most of the fights are simply well
choreographed, with great stunts and excellent camera work.
There's more gratuitous blood than you can possibly imagine. Whenever a
head or limb gets lopped off, blood doesn't just gush - it's like Old
Faithful. These people have some seriously strong hearts, pouring the red
flood out in a spray across walls, ceilings, floors and attackers. No one
dies a simple death. Instead, they end up twitching on the ground in an
ocean of their own juices. Well, except for the one guy lucky enough to be
spanked by Uma.
If you're not into bad, old Kung Fu movies, there's plenty here to annoy
you. The awful clanging music played whenever Uma sees one of her old
attackers again is enough to put off most regular folks, but if that doesn't
do it the silly deaths will. I grew up on the films this movie is mimicing,
so I found it entertaining and fun. But I also could see where the average
Joe Six Pack is going to think Quentin is way over rated.
Uma does a nice job with what she has to do. It's predominately a physical
role, and she does a great job with it. We don't get to see much of
Carradine as Bill, but it's brilliant casting. Lucy Liu puts in my favorite
performance, and does a terrific job explaining to a Japanese Mafia boss why
it's a bad idea to bring up her heritage. Darryl Hannah is almost
unrecognizable as one of the vipers, and Vivica Fox puts in a decent turn as
another of the deadly vipers. Michael Madsen, who seems unable to find work
outside of Tarantino films, is on screen all too briefly in this first
This is one of those films where the director gets away with doing really
silly, goofy, ridiculous things because he does them on purpose. I'm not
sure that's a good thing, and you'll probably find one or more that do bug
you. For me, it was the traditional bad music I already mentioned. It
wasn't the rest of the soundtrack - there are some great songs here, and
many fit the moods and choreography so well you'll be amazed - but that one
song was so much like the old films, and not in a good way, that it always
jerked me out of the fun I was having. Another one for me was Black Mamba's
list. She wants to kill five people. Five people she knows very well. But
she has to make list of their names. Uh huh. And then, just for dramatic
effect, she has to cross the names off after she kills them. Hey, anyone
could forget they'd killed someone after a half hour blood bath.
Fans of over the top, martial arts exploitation films will enjoy this romp.
None of it is to be taken seriously, even when they try to give you some
true emotion. That's too bad, because there are a few times when Ms.
Thurman did her best to make you feel her real pain, but then that corny
music starts in, and the mood is lost in the wild ride.
Rating - Rent It
Sure, it's a fun movie if you're bent that way, but you're just as well off
renting both halves when they hit the video store. The cliffhanger ain't
all that much of a cliffhanger, and considering it took almost two hours for
Uma to off only two of her five list members, you can expect the second film
is pretty much more of the same.
I'm kind of surprised that Tarentino did this film so early in his career.
Didn't we just get a homage to exploitation flicks from him in Jackie Brown?
It would be nice to see if the guy that made magic with Pulp Fiction and
Reservoir Dogs could actually do it again, instead of playing king of the
Spoiler Laden Thoughts
Oh, there's that cliffhanger ending...
...that really wasn't much of a cliffhanger. The fact that her daughter
survived was pretty obvious from the beginning, although where she's been
these four years is likely to be interesting. I'm a little confused about
Bill though - did he not hear her say the baby was his? We clearly heard
it, but perhaps he didn't, and never knew. That might answer a few things,
but the basic reality of this movie is that the story is a distant second
place to the action.