Film Review: Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

Lucy Liu & Uma Thurman in  Kill Bill Vol. 1 | MUBI

Lucy Liu & Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol. 1 | MUBI

Lucy Liu is queen and that’s all there is to say about Kill Bill. She whoops ass and it’s unrealistic that Uma Thurman beat her. Just saying. 

Kill Bill is any weeaboo white film bro’s wet dream and the only good thing to come out of the entire film was Lucy Liu’s fiery portrayal of O-Ren Ishii. Her speech in front of the yakuza after she beheaded one of the men for calling her a “half-breed bitch” is by far the best scene of the film and Liu’s line delivery and facial expression almost makes up for Quentin Tarantino’s orientalist fantasy of an exotic, violent, martial-arts infused eastern world. 

For those who are just now tuning in to this film like I recently have, Kill Bill is a standard action-revenge story, but starring primarily women; Uma Thurman plays The Bride/Beatrix Kiddo who seeks murderous revenge for the loss of her unborn baby after she was almost killed by her fiance’s assassination squad. Lucy Liu and Vivica A. Fox, playing O-Ren Ishii and Vernita Green respectively, are part of the squad and the first targets of The Bride’s vengeful hitlist. Told in a nonlinear fashion, the film opens with Beatrix, a white woman, coldly killing Vernita Green, a black woman, in front of her daughter - that’s the first major red flag for this film (aside from the fact that it’s made by Quentin Tarantino, which I’ll address later). Vernita Green, whose own story would’ve been wholly interesting in her own right, is sadly just a plot point to show that Beatrix can apparently beat and kill people. 

Uma Thurman & Lucy Liu in  Kill Bill Vol. 1  | The Action Elite/Bald Move

Uma Thurman & Lucy Liu in Kill Bill Vol. 1 | The Action Elite/Bald Move

The film is divided up into chapters and subsequently goes into the past to show Beatrix waking up from a four year coma after surviving the attempted assassination. She kills the hospital staff (righteously so) and steals the Pussy Wagon while diving into a weird voiceover narration of O-Ren Ishii’s violent and bloody anime backstory. That’s the second major red flag. It’s one thing for a Japanese writer to write a story like O-Ren Ishii’s in this fashion, and a completely other thing for Quentin Tarantino, a racist, sexist, pretentious white film bro pig, to do so. And for that story to continue to perpetuate Asian women as deceptive and conniving Dragon Ladies is unfortunate. And Lucy Liu, despite being many Asian American women’s Hollywood hero (especially for her portrayal of O-Ren), also became a casualty of that stereotype: 

I wish people wouldn’t just see me as the Asian girl who beats everyone up, or the Asian girl with no emotion. People see Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock in a romantic comedy, but not me. You add race to it, and it became, "Well, she’s too Asian", or, "She’s too American".

The rest of the film continues to be Tarantino’s fantasy showdown between white women and the scary and exotic "Tokyo underworld" via a battle between Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu. Beatrix flies to Japan to master swordfighting like some entitled tourist and proceeds to challenge O-Ren & Co. Somehow and unrealistically, Beatrix defeats O-Ren’s Crazy 88 army, including her personal bodyguard Gogo (UNREALISTIC), and then goes on to defeat O-ren as well. Practically half the film is dedicated to showing Uma Thurman wield a bloody samurai sword against a bunch of dead Asian bodies and that was my final signifier to turn off the film - which, as it turned out, would be the conclusion of the first Kill Bill anyway. 

People who claim Quentin Tarantino to be some sort of master filmmaker or whatever the fuck needs a serious re-examination of ethics because no matter how “brilliant” a film may be (which this film is not), the fact of the matter is, this is Tarantino jacking himself off to show what a cool and ~different~ filmmaker he is because he’s inspired by Asian martial arts films and spaghetti westerns. And especially now, in the time of #MeToo and #TimesUp, we’re all familiar with Tarantino’s trash friendship with Harvey Weinstein and both of their histories of rape and/or rape apologizing, absolutely blatant racism, and undeniable violence against women. So let's cut the crap and shun him together, shall we? 

Kill Bill, as a action-revenge thriller, may symbolize a form of female empowerment for some, but from a holistic consideration of its creator(s), conception, and production, Kill Bill is nothing but trash with a soundtrack.