As important of a role that movies play in my life right now, it’s easy for me to forget that there was a time in my life where I didn’t have more random and useless trivia about films floating around in my head than an average room of people combined. Right when Kill Bill: Vol. 1 originally came out in theatres, it was in the fall of my freshman year of high school. I had no idea who Quentin Tarantino was and I had never seen any of his films. My dad and I were at the mall when we happened to bump into the man that I’m named after, one of my dad’s best friends, and he couldn’t stop raving about how fantastic he thought Kill Bill: Vol. 1 was. So, my dad brought home on DVD Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction (which he had seen but I hadn’t) and the rest is, as they say, history. That began my love affair with a director who I consider one of the most talented and brilliant men to ever step behind the camera and call himself a director. And while I rank Kill Bill Vol. 1 down towards the bottom of his works, that still makes this movie better than anything the average director will produce during his entire career.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 is the first story of two focusing on a character known only as the Bride (well at least until her name is revealed at the end of #2. The Bride is a former assassin for a shadowy crime lord known as Bill and was part of a squad of assassins working for said man. In a story that hasn’t been fully explained in this chapter, the Bride has apparently ran away to marry a boy and Bill and his other assassins massacre her wedding party and shoot her leaving her for dead… but she lives. What follows over the course of the next two films is a bloody (and I do mean bloody) roaring, rampage of revenge.

Pretty much every Quentin Tarantino film ever is a love letter to a particular genre of film that he loves, the exception being Pulp Fiction which is just a melting pot of genres and styles. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is no exception and this film is non-stop shout out to the martial arts genre and its various sub-sets. This is actually the first Tarantino film that I would ever characterize as a straight action film as opposed to a drama or thriller that had action elements. There are several kick-ass fight sequences in the film although the now infamous battle against the Crazy 88’s takes the cake. And sprinkled through-out the entire film are innumerable shout outs to specific kung fu films and bits of martial arts cinema history. Hell, there’s even a super-awesome scene done entirely using anime, and it freaking works.

As much as I love this movie (and really everything else Tarantino has ever made), what makes it fall short in the pantheon of great Tarantino pictures is the lack of his trademark dialogue and twisty-turning storytelling. This is probably one of his most straight-forward films and it contains the least amount of talking of his entire ouevre of work. This film doesn’t have any sort of “royale with cheese” or “gold watch” conversation. That’s a shame because so much of Tarantino’s strength as a director comes in his ability to frame incredibly memorable conversations for his characters to have. And at the same time, while most of his films are love letters to genre, they also serve as deconstructions and subtle satire of their mediums. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 plays so many of the tropes of over-the-top action movies completely straight and it never really feels like it’s trying to take a more piercing look at the genre. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 would be a much more effective return to form for Tarantino, although like I said, while this is towards the bottom of his works, this is still a pretty fantastic movie that all true movie fans need to give a whirl.

Final Score: B+

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