|Kill Bill: Volume 1|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Quentin Tarantino|
|Produced by||Lawrence Bender|
|Written by||Quentin Tarantino|
|Edited by||Sally Menke|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Box office||$180.9 million|
Kill Bill: Volume 1 is a 2003 American martial arts film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. It is widely recognized to have been heavily inspired by the 1973 Japanese film Lady Snowblood. It stars Uma Thurman as the Bride, who swears revenge on a team of assassins (Lucy Liu, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, and Vivica A. Fox) and their leader, Bill (David Carradine), after they try to kill her and her unborn child. Her journey takes her to Tokyo, Japan, where she battles the yakuza.
Tarantino conceived Kill Bill as an homage to grindhouse cinema, including martial arts films, samurai cinema, blaxploitation, and spaghetti Westerns. It features an anime sequence by Production I.G. It is the first of two Kill Bill films made in a single production; the films were originally set for a single release, but the film, with a runtime of over four hours, was divided in two. The film grossed over $180 million against a $30 million budget; it became Tarantino's highest-grossing film until it was surpassed by Inglourious Basterds six years later. Kill Bill: Volume 2 was released the next year, on April 16, 2004.
A woman in a wedding dress, the Bride, lies wounded in a chapel in El Paso, Texas, having been attacked by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. She tells their leader, Bill, that she is pregnant with his baby just before he shoots her in the head.
Four years later, having survived the attack, the Bride goes to the home of Vernita Green, planning to kill her. Both women were members of the assassination squad, which has since disbanded; Vernita now leads a normal suburban family life. They engage in a knife fight, but are interrupted by the arrival of Vernita's young daughter, Nikki. The Bride agrees to meet Vernita at night to settle the matter, but when Vernita tries to surprise the Bride with a pistol hidden in a box of cereal, the Bride throws a knife into Vernita's chest, killing her. Nikki witnesses the killing, and the Bride acknowledges that Nikki may one day seek her own vengeance for her mother's death.
Four years earlier, police investigate the massacre at the wedding chapel. The sheriff discovers that the Bride is alive but comatose. In the hospital, Deadly Viper Elle Driver prepares to assassinate the Bride via lethal injection, but Bill aborts the mission at the last moment, considering it dishonorable to kill the Bride when she cannot defend herself.
The Bride awakens from her four-year coma and is horrified to find that she is no longer pregnant. She kills a man who tries to rape her and a hospital worker who has been selling her body while she was comatose. She takes the hospital worker's truck and teaches herself to walk again.
Resolving to kill Bill and all four members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, the Bride picks her first target: O-Ren Ishii, now the leader of the Tokyo Yakuza. O-Ren's parents were murdered by the Yakuza when she was a child; she took vengeance on the Yakuza boss and replaced him after training as an elite assassin. The Bride travels to Okinawa, Japan, to obtain a sword from legendary swordsmith Hattori Hanzō, who has sworn never to forge a sword again. After learning that her target is Bill, his former student, he relents and crafts his finest sword for her.
At a Tokyo restaurant, the House of Blue Leaves, the Bride defeats O-Ren's elite squad of fighters, the Crazy 88, and her bodyguard, schoolgirl Gogo Yubari. She and O-Ren duel in the restaurant's Japanese garden; the Bride gains the upper hand and slices the top of her head off with a sword stroke. She tortures Sofie Fatale, O-Ren's assistant, for information about Bill, and leaves her alive as a threat. Bill asks Sofie if the Bride knows that her daughter is alive.
- Uma Thurman as the Bride (code name Black Mamba), a former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, described as "the deadliest woman in the world". She seeks revenge on the Deadly Vipers after they try to kill her and her unborn child in a wedding chapel. Her real name is not spoken until Kill Bill: Volume 2, although it is visible on her boarding passes in this film.
- Lucy Liu as O-Ren Ishii (code name Cottonmouth), a former Deadly Viper who has become the leader of the Japanese Yakuza. She and the Bride once had a close friendship. She is the Bride's first target.
- David Carradine as Bill (code name Snake Charmer), the former leader of the Deadly Vipers, the Bride's former lover, and the father of her daughter. He is the final target of the Bride's revenge. He is an unseen character until Volume 2.
- Vivica A. Fox as Vernita Green (code name Copperhead), a former Deadly Viper and now a mother and homemaker, living under the name Jeannie Bell. She is the Bride's second target.
- Michael Madsen as Budd (code name Sidewinder), a former Deadly Viper, now working as a bouncer and living in a trailer. He is the Bride's third target.
- Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver (code name California Mountain Snake), a former Deadly Viper and the Bride's fourth target.
- Julie Dreyfus as Sofie Fatale, O-Ren's lawyer, confidante, and second lieutenant. She is also a former protégée of Bill's, and was present at the wedding chapel massacre.
- Sonny Chiba as Hattori Hanzō, master swordsmith who, although long retired, agrees to craft a sword just for the Bride.
- Chiaki Kuriyama as Gogo Yubari, O-Ren's sadistic Japanese schoolgirl bodyguard.
- Gordon Liu as Johnny Mo, head of O-Ren's personal army, the Crazy 88. Liu would also appear in Volume 2 as Martial Arts Master Pai Mei.
- Michael Parks as Earl McGraw, a Texas Ranger who investigates the wedding chapel massacre. Parks originated McGraw in the Robert Rodriguez film From Dusk till Dawn, in which Tarantino starred. He would go on to reprise the role in both segments of the Rodriguez/Tarantino collaboration Grindhouse. Parks also appeared in Volume 2 as a separate character, Esteban Vihaio.
- Michael Bowen as Buck, an orderly at the hospital who has been raping the Bride while she lay comatose.
- Jun Kunimura as Boss Tanaka, a yakuza whom O-Ren executes after he ridicules her ethnicity and gender.
- Kenji Ohba as Shiro, Hattori Hanzo's employee.
- James Parks as Edgar McGraw, a Texas Ranger and son of Earl McGraw.
- Jonathan Loughran as Buck's trucker client, killed by the Bride after he attempts to rape her.
- Yuki Kazamatsuri as the Proprietress of the House of Blue Leaves.
- Sakichi Sato as "Charlie Brown", a House of Blue Leaves employee who is mocked by the Crazy 88, as he wears a kimono similar to the shirt worn by the Peanuts character.
- Ambrosia Kelley as Nikki Bell, Vernita's four-year-old daughter. She witnesses the Bride killing her mother, and the Bride suggests that she seek revenge when she gets older, if she still "feels raw about it".
- The 126.96.36.199's (Sachiko Fuji, Yoshiko Yamaguchi and Ronnie Yoshiko Fujiyama) as themselves, performing at the House of Blue Leaves.
Writer-director Quentin Tarantino and actress Uma Thurman conceived the Bride character and her revenge path during the production of Tarantino's 1994 film Pulp Fiction; the film credits the story to "Q & U". Tarantino spent a year and a half writing the script while he was living in New York City in 2000–2001, spending time with Thurman and her newborn daughter Maya. To reunite with a more mature actress, furthermore a mother, influenced the way he wrote the Bride character; Tarantino did not come to the realization that the Bride's child could still be alive until the last four-five months of the writing process. He originally wrote Bill to be played by Warren Beatty, but as the character developed and the role required greater screen time and martial arts training, he rewrote it for David Carradine.
An early draft included a chapter set after the confrontation with Vernita in which the Bride has a gunfight with Gogo Yubari's vengeful sister Yuki. The scene was cut because, in Tarantino's own words, he was "dealing with a three and a half-hour movie", was going to "kill [himself] shooting it" and was set to "cost $1 million". Another draft featured a scene in which the Bride's "Pussy Wagon" is blown up by Elle Driver.
When Thurman became pregnant as shooting was ready to begin, Tarantino delayed the production, saying: "If Josef Von Sternberg is getting ready to make Morocco and Marlene Dietrich gets pregnant, he waits for Dietrich!" Although the scenes are presented out of chronological order, the film was shot in sequence. Choreographer Woo-Ping Yuen, whose previous credits include The Matrix, was the film's martial arts advisor. The anime sequence, covering O-Ren Ishii's backstory, was directed by Kazuto Nakazawa and produced by Production I.G, which had produced films including Ghost in the Shell and Blood: The Last Vampire. The combined production lasted 155 days and had a budget of $55 million.
According to Tarantino, the most difficult part of making the film was "trying to take myself to a different place as a filmmaker and throw my hat in the ring with other great action directors", as opposed to the dialogue scenes he was known for. The House of Blue Leaves sequence, in which the Bride battles dozens of yakuza soldiers, took eight weeks to film, six weeks over schedule. Tarantino wanted to create "one of the greatest, most exciting sequences in the history of cinema". The crew eschewed computer-generated imagery in favor of traditional practical effects used in 1970s Chinese cinema, particularly by director Chang Cheh, including the use of fire extinguishers and condoms to create spurts and explosions of blood. Tarantino told his crew: "Let's pretend we're little kids and we're making a Super 8 movie in our back yard, and you don't have all this shit. How would you achieve this effect? Ingenuity is important here!"
Near the end of filming, Thurman was injured in a crash while filming the scene in which she drives to Bill. According to Thurman, she was uncomfortable driving the car and asked a stunt driver to do it; Tarantino assured her that the car and road were safe. She lost control of the car and hit a tree, suffering a concussion and damage to her knees. Thurman requested the crash footage, but Miramax would only release it, in Thurman's words, if she signed a document "releasing them of any consequences of [Thurman's] future pain and suffering". Tarantino was apologetic, but he and Thurman were acrimonious for years afterwards; she said after the accident she "went from being a creative contributor and performer to being like a broken tool". Miramax released the footage in 2018 after Thurman went to police following the accusations of sexual abuse by producer Harvey Weinstein.
Kill Bill was planned and produced as a single film. After shooting ended and editing began, Harvey Weinstein, known for pressuring filmmakers to shorten their films, suggested that Tarantino split the film in two. This meant Tarantino did not have to cut scenes, such as the anime sequence. Tarantino told IGN: "I'm talking about scenes that are some of the best scenes in the movie, but in this hurdling pace where you're trying to tell only one story, that would have been the stuff that would have had to go. But to me, that's kind of what the movie was, are these little detours and these little grace notes." The decision to split the film was announced in July 2003.
Kill Bill was inspired by ″grindhouse cinema″, a term for films that played in cheap US theaters in the 1970s, including martial arts films, samurai cinema, blaxploitation films, and spaghetti westerns. It pays homage to the Shaw Brothers Studio, known for its martial arts films, with the inclusion of the ShawScope logo in its opening titles and the "crashing zoom", a fast zoom usually ending in a close-up commonly used in Shaw Brothers films.
The Bride's yellow tracksuit, helmet and motorcycle resemble the ones used by Bruce Lee in the 1972 kung fu film Game of Death. The animated sequence homages violent anime films such as Golgo 13: The Professional (1983) and Wicked City (1987). Indian director Anurag Kashyap has claimed that Tarantino privately told him that he was inspired by an Indian serial killer movie which Kashyap surmised to be the Indian film Aalavandhan (2001), another live-action film which features an animated murder sequence.
The House of the Blue Leaves set, where the climactic battle of Part 1 takes place, is based on Gonpachi Nishi-Azabu, a Tokyo restaurant that Tarantino had visited prior to the film's development.
The Guardian wrote that Kill Bill's plot shares similarities with the 1973 Japanese film Lady Snowblood, in which a woman kills off the gang who murdered her family, and observed that like how Lady Snowblood used stills and illustration for "parts of the narrative that were too expensive to film", Kill Bill similarly used "Japanese-style animation to break up the narrative". The plot also resembles the 1968 French film The Bride Wore Black, in which a bride seeks revenge on five gang members and strikes them off a list as she kills them.
As with Tarantino's previous films, Kill Bill features a diverse soundtrack; genres include country music and Spaghetti Western scores by Ennio Morricone. Bernard Herrmann's theme from the film Twisted Nerve is whistled by the menacing Elle Driver in the hospital scene. A brief, 15-second excerpt from the opening of the Ironside theme music by Quincy Jones is used as the Bride's revenge motif, which flares up with a red-tinged flashback whenever she is in the company of her next target. Instrumental tracks from Japanese guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei figure prominently, and after the success of Kill Bill they were frequently used in American TV commercials and at sporting events. As the Bride enters "The House of Blue Leaves", go-go group the 5,6,7,8's perform "I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield," "I'm Blue (The Gong-Gong Song)" and "Woo Hoo". The connection to Lady Snowblood is further established by the use of "The Flower of Carnage" the closing theme from that film. James Last's "The Lonely Shepherd" by pan flute virtuoso Gheorghe Zamfir plays over the closing credits. The theme from The Green Hornet plays when the Bride is flying to and arriving in Japan.
Kill Bill: Volume 1 was released in theaters on October 10, 2003. It was the first Tarantino film in six years, following Jackie Brown in 1997. In the United States and Canada, Volume 1 was released in 3,102 theaters and grossed $22 million on its opening weekend. Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, said Volume 1's opening weekend gross was significant for a "very genre specific and very violent" film that in the United States was restricted to theatergoers 17 years old and up. It ranked first at the box office, beating School of Rock (in its second weekend) and Intolerable Cruelty (in its first). Volume 1 had the widest theatrical release and highest-grossing opening weekend of a Tarantino film to date; Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction (1994) had each grossed $9.3 million on their opening weekends. According to the studio, exit polls showed that 90% of the audience was interested in seeing the second Kill Bill after seeing the first.
Outside the United States and Canada, Kill Bill: Volume 1 was released in 20 territories. The film outperformed its main competitor Intolerable Cruelty in Norway, Denmark and Finland, though it ranked second in Italy. Volume 1 had a record opening in Japan, though expectations were higher due to the film being partially set there and because of its homages to Japanese martial arts cinema. It had "a muted entry" in the United Kingdom and Germany due to its 18 certificate, but "experienced acceptable drops" after its opening weekend in the two territories. By November 2, 2003, it had made $31 million in the 20 territories. It grossed a total of $70 million in the United States and Canada and $110.9 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $180.9 million.
In the United States, Volume 1 was released on DVD and VHS on April 13, 2004, the week Volume 2 was released in theaters. In a December 2005 interview, Tarantino addressed the lack of a special edition DVD for Kill Bill by stating "I've been holding off because I've been working on it for so long that I just wanted a year off from Kill Bill and then I'll do the big supplementary DVD package." After one week of release, the film's DVD sales had surpassed its $70 million US box office gross.
The United States does not have a DVD boxed set of Kill Bill, though box sets of the two separate volumes are available in other countries, such as France, Japan and the United Kingdom. Upon the DVD release of Volume 2 in the US, however, Best Buy did offer an exclusive box set slipcase to house the two individual releases together. Volume 1, along with Volume 2, was released in High Definition on Blu-ray on September 9, 2008 in the United States. As of March 2012, Volume 1 sold 141,456 Blu-ray units in the US, grossing $1,477,791.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Kill Bill: Volume 1 has a score of 85% based on reviews from 237 critics; the average rating is 7.67/10. Its consensus reads: "Kill Bill is admittedly little more than a stylish revenge thriller – albeit one that benefits from a wildly inventive surfeit of style." At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score 69 out of 100 based on 43 reviews from mainstream critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
While being so relentlessly exposed to a filmmaker's idiosyncratic turn-ons can be tedious and off-putting, the undeniable passion that drives Kill Bill is fascinating, even, strange to say it, endearing. Mr. Tarantino is an irrepressible showoff, recklessly flaunting his formal skills as a choreographer of high-concept violence, but he is also an unabashed cinephile, and the sincerity of his enthusiasm gives this messy, uneven spectacle an odd, feverish integrity.
...[a] blood-soaked valentine to movies. ... It's apparent that Tarantino is striving for more than an off-the-rack mash note or a pastiche of golden oldies. It is, rather, his homage to movies shot in celluloid and wide, wide, wide, wide screen — an ode to the time right before movies were radically secularized.
She also recognized Tarantino's technical talent but thought the film's appeal was too limited to popular culture references, calling the film's story "the least interesting part of the whole equation".
...Quentin Tarantino so effortlessly and brilliantly in command of his technique that he reminds me of a virtuoso violinist racing through 'Flight of the Bumble Bee' – or maybe an accordion prodigy setting a speed record for 'Lady of Spain'. I mean that as a sincere compliment. The movie is not about anything at all except the skill and humor of its making. It's kind of brilliant.
Cultural historian Maud Lavin states that the Bride's embodiment of revenge taps into viewers' personal fantasies of committing violence. For audiences, particularly women viewers, the character provides a complex site for identification with one's own aggression.
Uma Thurman received a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination in 2004. She was also nominated in 2004 for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, in addition with four other BAFTA nominations. Kill: Bill Volume 1 was placed in Empire Magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Films of All Time at number 325 and the Bride was also ranked number 66 in Empire magazine's "100 Greatest Movie Characters". Neither Kill Bill movie received any Academy Awards (Oscars) nominations.
|57th British Academy Film Awards|
|Best Actress||Uma Thurman||Nominated|
|Best Editing||Sally Menke||Nominated|
|Best Film Music||RZA||Nominated|
|Best Sound||Michael Minkler, Myron Nettinga, Wylie Stateman, and Mark Ulano||Nominated|
|Best Visual Effects||Tommy Tom, Kia Kwan, Tam Wai, Kit Leung, Jaco Wong, and Hin Leung||Nominated|
|9th Empire Awards|
|Best Film||Kill Bill: Volume 1||Nominated|
|Best Actress||Uma Thurman||Won|
|Best Director||Quentin Tarantino||Won|
|Sony Ericsson Scene of the Year||The House of the Blue Leaves||Nominated|
|61st Golden Globe Awards||Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama||Uma Thurman||Nominated|
|2004 MTV Movie Awards||Best Female Performance||Uma Thurman||Won|
|Best Villain||Lucy Liu||Won|
|Best Fight||Uma Thurman vs. Chiaki Kuriyama||Won|
|2003 Satellite Awards|
|Best Art Direction/Production Design||Kill Bill: Volume 1||Nominated|
|Best Original Screenplay||Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman||Nominated|
|Best Sound||Kill Bill: Volume 1||Nominated|
|Best Visual Effects||Kill Bill: Volume 1||Nominated|
|30th Saturn Awards|
|Best Action/Adventure Film||Kill Bill: Volume 1||Won|
|Best Actress||Uma Thurman||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor||Sonny Chiba||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Lucy Liu||Nominated|
|Best Director||Quentin Tarantino||Nominated|
|Best Screenplay||Quentin Tarantino||Nominated|
|Genre Face of the Future||Chiaki Kuriyama||Nominated|
In popular culture
Kill Buljo is a 2007 Norwegian parody of Kill Bill set in Finnmark, Norway, and portrays Jompa Tormann's hunt for Tampa and Papa Buljo. The film satirizes stereotypes of Norway's Sami population. According to the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, Tarantino approved of the parody.
Kill Bill: Volume 2 was released in April 2004. It continues the Bride's quest to kill Bill and the remaining members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Volume 2 was also a critical and commercial success, earning over $150 million.
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- Staff (April 19, 2004). "Bill makes a killing at US box office". The Guardian.
Kill Bill: Volume 2's total ... confirmed the financial good sense of Miramax's decision to split the movie in two.