Movies: And Now...Pulp Friction

Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill has some critics out for blood. But the film is more than just a gore fest

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Daring, in part, because of the tone, at once playful and dead serious. The movie begins with the Shaw Bros. fanfare, switches to a cheesy, scratchy OUR FEATURE PRESENTATION sign, then offers "Revenge is a dish best served cold. --old Klingon proverb." (In other words, Warning to audiences: We will have fun. You will get wet.) But there's no kidding in the Bride's plan or demeanor; Thurman's laser stare could find Saddam and kill Osama. The showdowns with her main adversaries--Ishii and Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox)--are no laughing matter either. These are women who respect one another's skill, treachery and dedication to a job well done. And if you want character motivation for dastardly deeds, attend to the brilliantly designed anime-style flashback of Ishii as a child, seeing her parents massacred and taking her revenge, first on the murderer, then on the world. It's a character so rich, Kill Bill could as easily have been about her.

There's a daring, exhilarating spirit to the fights too. These are gory production numbers, immediate but also abstract--studies in what the body can achieve and endure. And because Tarantino mostly eschewed digital effects and had his performers do the stunts, you get figuratively sprayed by the sweat all that slick terpsichore generates. Even the arcs of blood have the propulsion of crimson choreography. In this sense, Kill Bill is the greatest dance film since West Side Story.

Kill Bill Vol. 2 comes out in February, and the interlude is a good idea. After bathing in Vol. 1's balletic blood and bustle, you may need four months to catch your breath.

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