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Review: Big spills, big thrills in 'Kill Bill'

Exciting film prompts the question, how long 'til Vol. 2?

By Paul Clinton
CNN Reviewer

Uma Thurman is out for blood in "Kill Bill Vol. 1."

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(CNN) -- Writer-director Quentin Tarantino is back with a vengeance with his brilliant, blood-splattered revenge flick "Kill Bill Vol. I."

Tarantino may be many things, but he is most definitely not your average moviemaker. He's a film historian and avid movie fan, and he lives and breathes his projects. "Kill Bill" is an homage to Tarantino's beloved spaghetti westerns, Chinese martial arts films, and Japanese samurai movies, as well as the Japanese animation known as anime.

The film was crafted in different chapters, and each reflects the characteristics of these different genres filtered through the highly unique sensibilities of Tarantino's avant-garde style.

The basic premise involves a sinister man simply known as Bill (played by one of Tarantino's boyhood heroes, David Carradine of the 1970's TV show "Kung Fu"), who's formed an elite group of mostly female assassins known as the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, or DIVAS -- a typical Tarantino touch. All the Vipers have code names, and the most dangerous of the gang is Black Mamba, played by Tarantino's main muse, Uma Thurman.

Shot down, getting up

Black Mamba, who at one point was Bill's lover, attempts to leave her life of murder and mayhem behind (retiring is apparently not an option) and get married in a small church in Mexico. Pregnant at the time, she is shot down -- along with the rest of the wedding party -- by her fellow DIVAS, who have left her for dead.

Kill Bill
Members of the DIVAS -- Daryl Hannah, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen and Lucy Liu -- cause mayhem wherever they go.

However, Black Mamba, hereafter known simply as "The Bride," has actually fallen into a deep coma. When she awakens four years later in a strange hospital, well ... she's in for some very nasty surprises devised from the strange mind of the film's creator.

Barely escaping, she flees in a most unusual vehicle and sets out to seek revenge against the rest of the vipers and, most especially, Bill himself. But Bill -- barely seen in this first film -- will have to wait for "Volume II." In the meantime, The Bride takes care of many, many others.

Tarantino won an Oscar for best screenplay for co-writing 1994's "Pulp Fiction" with then writing partner Roger Avary. The two had a bitter break over credit for the film and many have wondered over the years if Tarantino's long delays between projects was due to his fear of not being able to follow that magnificent success. Since then, the filmmaker's only movie has been 1997's "Jackie Brown," which earned mixed reviews.

"Kill Bill" is Tarantino's fourth movie. With it, any concerns about Tarantino's filmmaking chops can now be put to rest.

Great work

Daryl Hannah goes to the hospital to take care of Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill."

This film is also Thurman's best work since "Pulp Fiction," and her fellow assassins -- Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah and Vivica A. Fox -- also turn in outstanding performances. One amazing action scene between Thurman and Liu lasts 20 minutes and took weeks to shoot.

The violence, blood levels -- and just plain cheesy gore -- in this film are extreme, but Tarantino's sharp dialogue and expert editing leaves you breathless. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, the reaction could have been gagging. "Kill Bill Vol. I" will have Tarantino fans dancing in the aisles.

It was a long time in coming -- the controversial project took the cast and crew from Beijing to Tokyo to Los Angeles and finally to rural Mexico over an eight-month shooting schedule -- and only a maverick like Tarantino would ever attempt this huge script.

Moreover, nobody but Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein would have given it a green light and then come up with the idea of releasing the long film in two parts. "Kill Bill Vol. II" is set to come out February 20, 2004.

I am counting the days.

"Kill Bill Vol. I" opens nationwide on Friday, October 10, and is rated R.

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