'Kill Bill Vol. 1' is worth a look as 'Vol. 2' opens in theaters


I was more than a little surprised to hear that the DVD of Kill Bill Vol. 1 would precede by only three days the release of the second half of Quentin Tarantino's tribute to every grind house movie he ever loved. But since Vol. 2 turns out as promised to be simply the second half of a single movie, the reasoning may be less odd than it seems. In fact, I might suggest watching the first installment before seeing Vol. 2 at the theater to get the full effect of what is now revealed to be a true B-movie epic.

The story is simplicity defined: An assassin known only as the Bride (Uma Thurman) is presumably murdered, along with everyone else unlucky enough to be in the church on her wedding day. (Vol. 2 reveals this is not technically true, but never mind.)

The hit was ordered by her former employer, Bill (David Carradine, who is heard but not seen until Vol. 2), and carried out by her former and exceedingly lethal teammates, the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DiVAS), each of whom is named for some exotic snake.

The Bride's revenge is illustrated in four subsequent chapters, each specifically inspired by (mostly Asian) movies Tarantino loves, beautifully choreographed and filmed and unapologetically violent, often to the point of absurdity. The emphasis on action may have disappointed fans of the verbal dexterities of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs - rest assured they will be adequately compensated in the more dialogue-driven Vol. 2 - but anyone who appreciates the sheer exhilaration of a genre movie taken to outrageous extremes will be floored by its go-to-the-limit gusto.

The DVD gets a good digital transfer, but attention has obviously been given to the audio mix, which can be heard in either Dolby Digital or DTS, and which are both fairly awe-inspiring, especially in the climatic showdown at the House of Blue Leaves.

The extras are minimal: a 22-minute making-of documentary that traces the film's inception from Tarantino's wasted youth to the decision to release it in two parts, and two music videos by the Blue Leaves house band, Japan's all-female 5,6,7,8's, which were excerpted in the film itself.

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