Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 111 minutes
Audio: PCM 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French
Subtitles: English, Spanish, others
MSRP: $ 34.99
Release Date: September 9, 2008
Review Date: September 3, 2008
Quentin Tarantino’s wet dream of a movie Kill Bill is quite simply an over-the-top blast. Volume 1 of his hyper-action thriller is an amalgamation of several of his favorite movie genres, and his loving enthusiasm for these old action movie traditions is both obvious and compelling. Not for a moment dealing with anything realistic, Kill Bill takes blood sport and makes it a rollicking good time.
A pregnant bride (Uma Thurman) and her bridal party are massacred in the midst of her wedding rehearsal by a group known as the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Seriously injured but not killed, the Bride (aka Black Mamba) comes out of her coma after four years and seeks vengeance on each of the five other members of the squad. Volume 1 of the story covers her missions against now suburban soccer mom Vernita Green/Copperhead (Vivica A. Fox) and Japanese mob boss O-Ren Ishii/Cottonmouth (Lucy Liu). Three others await her wrath in the second part of the film (released separately in theaters and on home video).
In a film so top-to-bottom with bloodshed and haywire havoc, it might seem odd to talk about Tarantino’s stylish touches in this film, but they are everywhere. Absolutely stunning is the final showdown between Thurman and Liu in a Japanese garden with snow softly falling. The images are so beautiful, so purely cinematic in presence that one might almost expect a musical number to begin, so perfectly has the scene been set for something lyrical. And yet, the fight itself is lyrical with the usual ebbs and flows found in most movie combat sequences, pausing after a time to allow the audience to catch its collective breath before a final volley of blows occurs. Elsewhere, Tarantino’s camera is seldom at rest swooping up, down, and around the action, embracing the über-violence, ratcheting the suspense as we wait for things to begin (and we’re caught off guard a couple of times with surprise attacks that jolt us upright in our chairs). He’s stylized some of the dialog (but not all) having some people talking in a formal way that belies their crassness, and he’s used black and white, deeply saturated color, and even animation in interesting and sometimes unsettling ways. Kill Bill is a Tarantino playground just chock full of his cinematic playthings.
Uma Thurman’s physicality is astounding in the film, her single-minded purpose conveyed with such authority and bloodthirsty zest that it ranks among her best-ever performances. Vivica Fox’s throw down sequence gets the film off to a rousing start (one wonders how it can be topped, but Tarantino manages to make this scene just an appetizer), and Lucy Liu maintains a steely control as the expressionless crime boss masking a murderous flair with simple, elegant grace. Especially enjoyable is Sonny Chiba’s samurai sword maker Hattori Hanzo, and Chiaki Kuriyama’s insane murderess Go Go Yubari sends chills down one’s spine with her snake-like ruthlessness.
It’s unthinkable that anyone who lasts through the circus-like violence on display in Volume 1 isn’t chomping at the bit to see the resolution of the story in Volume 2. However, Tarantino has a hard act to follow with this carnival of madcap mayhem.
The film’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio has been delivered here in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The startling opening black and white images of the bloody and battered Uma Thurman are stupendously captured in the transfer with sharpness so deft that one can count the pores on Thurman’s face. Tarantino has hiked the saturation levels of the color portions of the film to a vibrancy of hues that pretty much defies description, though contrast is so hot in some scenes that the whites are blown out (one suspects deliberately). Sharpness is almost always superb, enough to count the freckles on Lucy Liu’s face, but occasionally there’s a soft moment that seems off. The animated sequences are also no problem for Blu-ray with bold lines and vivid colors. The film has been divided into 19 chapters, and the subtitles, when they happen, are smooth and easily visible.
The PCM 5.1 (4.6 Mbps) track is a rousing mix utilizing all available channels with music, effects, and deep bass constantly on display. Details in the sound pans both across the fronts and backs and from front to back consistently impress. Even a small special moment such as a mosquito buzzing around the room before finally lighting on its victim is beautifully captured in this priceless sound compendium. Listening to this soundtrack is one of the great aural experiences yet to come to Blu-ray.
All of the bonus features have been ported over from the standard definition release of the movie. All are in 480i.
“The Making of Kill Bill, Volume 1” is a 22-minute overview of the movie featuring director Quentin Tarantino, producer Lawrence Bender, and stars Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica Fox, and Daryl Hannah talking about their work on the film. The music, the location shooting, and the different movie genres that inspired the screenplay are also discussed by the director.
The music group 5, 6, 7, 8’s sing two songs ( “I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield” and “I’m Blue”) in a 5 ¾-minute music medley.
A group of trailers featuring the directorial work of Quentin Tarantino are featured: Reservoir Dogs (1 ½ minutes), Pulp Fiction (2 ¾ minutes), Jackie Brown (2 ¼ minutes), Kill Bill 1 teaser ( 1 ¾ minutes), Kill Bill 1 bootleg (2 ½ minutes), and Kill Bill 2 teaser (57 seconds).
For those game for an all-out assault on the senses, Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Volume 1 comes highly recommended.
Also contained in the package is a $10 rebate coupon for those who purchased the original DVD of the movie and who are upgrading to the Blu-ray.