Kill Bill:Acclaim and Criticism

Much-anticipated by fans and critics (it appeared after a six-year dearth of Tarantino movies), Kill Bill generated a tremendous amount of discussion. Reaction by film critics was positive, though by no means unanimous. Both volumes did well at the box office.


A movie in two volumes
Though released as two movies, the film differs from multi-part “franchise” series like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. The short duration between the releases of the two volumes, and the film’s history and internal structure, strongly recommend that it be regarded as one movie. The dual-release strategy, ostensibly due to the film’s length, has been criticized as an attempt by Miramax to sell two tickets to one movie.

The two-volume format produced another result: the partitioning ended up putting most of the action in the first volume and most of the dialogue in the second, creating a subtle but noticeable difference in tone. Of Volume 2, Sean O’Connell of Filmcritic.com writes, “The drop-off in energy, style, and coherence from…Volume 1 to its bloated, disinteresting counterpart is so drastic and extreme that you can hardly believe they come from the same director, let alone conclude the same storyline.”

Others preferred Volume 2, perhaps because of the relative paucity of sharp, Tarantino-trademark dialogue in its predecessor.


A bloody affair 

Much criticism concerned the amount and presentation of bloodshed and general mayhem . “A cocktail party in an abattoir,” complained one critic.

The violence is not just incidental to thefilm’s narrative, it is a conscious part of the telling of the story—an aesthetic element, for better or worse. An example is the decapitation prior to the House of Blue Leaves battle, in which an amount of blood seemingly greater than what a body could hold sprays upward from the headless trunk, like a dancing fountain.


Style and substance

Much of the controversy over the film reflects the differing expectations of those who admire a movie for its style and craftsmanship against those who look primarily at story and substance; as a tribute film and revenge saga, the movie is at a disadvantage with the latter group. “You never forget that ‘Kill Bill’ is an exercise in genre-sampling,” writes the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Caro.

Still, it is untrue that Kill Bill appeals only to film buffs looking to spot obscure pop culture references. It is undoubtedly well-constructed, with tightly-edited action scenes, strong performances, often-clever dialogue, and an effectively exciting soundtrack which draws on an astonishing selection of (mostly post-1960) music.


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