Kill Bill: Volume 1 is a 2003 American martial arts film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. It is the first of two Kill Bill films produced at the same time, and was followed by Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004). It was originally set for a single theatrical release, but with a runtime of over 4 hours, it was divided into two films. It stars Uma Thurman as the Bride, who seeks revenge on an assassination squad led by Bill (David Carradine) after they try to kill her and her unborn child. The film received positive reviews from critics and was a commercial success.
A woman in a wedding dress, the Bride, lies wounded in a church in El Paso, having been attacked by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. She tells their leader, Bill, that she is carrying his baby. He shoots her.
Four years later, having survived the attack, the Bride goes to the home of Vernita Green, planning to kill her. Both women were members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, which has since disbanded; Vernita now leads a normal suburban family life. They engage in a knife battle, but are interrupted by the arrival of Vernita's young daughter. Not wanting to kill Vernita in front of her child, the Bride agrees to meet Vernita at night to settle the matter. However, Vernita tries to surprise the Bride with a pistol hidden in a box of cereal, and the Bride throws a knife into Vernita's chest, killing her.
Four and a half years earlier, the El Paso Sheriff's Department investigates the massacre at the wedding chapel. The sheriff discovers the Bride is alive but comatose. In the hospital, Deadly Viper Elle Driver prepares to assassinate the Bride via lethal injection, but Bill aborts the mission at the last moment, considering it dishonorable to kill the Bride when she cannot defend herself.
In the present, the Bride awakens from her four-year coma and is horrified to find she is no longer pregnant. She kills a hospital worker who has been raping her while she was comatose, takes his truck, and teaches herself to walk again. Resolving to kill Bill and all four members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, she picks her first target: O-Ren Ishii, now the leader of the Tokyo Yakuza.
Years earlier, in Japan, the young Ishii's parents are murdered in front of her by the Yakuza. She takes vengeance on the Yakuza boss, and becomes the new boss after training as an elite assassin. In the present, she kills a Yakuza subordinate who questions her right to lead because of her gender and Japanese-Chinese-American ethnicity.
The Bride travels to Okinawa to obtain a sword from legendary swordsmith Hattori Hanzō, who has sworn never to forge a sword again. After learning that her target is his former student, Bill, he agrees to forge his finest sword for her.
The Bride tracks down O-Ren at a Tokyo restaurant and defeats her Yakuza army, including the elite Crazy 88 and O-Ren's bodyguard, schoolgirl Gogo Yubari. She duels with O-Ren in the restaurant's Japanese garden and slices the top of her skull off with a sword stroke.
The Bride tortures O-Ren's assistant and Bill's protege Sofie Fatale for information about Bill, but leaves her alive as a threat. Bill asks Sofie if the Bride knows her daughter is alive.
- Uma Thurman as the Bride (Black Mamba): A former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad who is described as "the deadliest woman in the world". She is targeted by her former allies in the wedding chapel massacre, and falls into a coma. When she awakens four years later, she embarks on a deadly trail of revenge against the perpetrators of the massacre. Her real name is censored whenever someone speaks it and is not revealed until the sequel.
- David Carradine as Bill (Snake Charmer); who is never seen except his hands, although his voice is heard: The former leader of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. He is also the former lover of The Bride, and the father of her daughter. He is the final and eponymous target of The Bride's revenge.
- Lucy Liu as O-Ren Ishii (Cottonmouth): A former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. She later becomes "Queen of the Tokyo underworld". She is the first of The Bride's revenge targets.
- Vivica A. Fox as Vernita Green (Copperhead): A former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. She later becomes a homemaker living under the false name Jeannie Bell. She is the second of The Bride's revenge targets.
- Michael Madsen as Budd (Sidewinder): A former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and brother of Bill. He later becomes a bouncer living in a trailer. He is the third of The Bride's revenge targets.
- Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver (California Mountain Snake): A former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. She is the fourth of The Bride's revenge targets.
- Julie Dreyfus as Sofie Fatale: O-Ren's lawyer, best friend, and second lieutenant. She is also a former protégé of Bill's, and was present at the wedding chapel massacre.
- Sonny Chiba as Hattori Hanzo: Revered as the greatest swordsmith of all time. Although long retired, he agrees to craft a sword for The Bride when he finds out what vermin she wants to kill.
- Chiaki Kuriyama as Gogo Yubari: A sadistic 17-year-old who is O-Ren's personal bodyguard.
- Gordon Liu as Johnny Mo: Head general of O-Ren's personal army; the Crazy 88. The Bride fights him several times during the battle at House of Blue Leaves before she apparently kills him.
- Michael Parks as Earl McGraw: A policeman who investigates the wedding chapel massacre.
- Michael Bowen as Buck: An orderly at the hospital where The Bride lay comatose for four years. He has been selling sexual access to her body, as well as partaking himself.
- Jun Kunimura as Boss Tanaka: A Yakuza who is disgruntled when O-Ren assumes power; when he ridicules O-Ren's nationality and gender, she decapitates him.
- Kenji Ohba as Shiro: Hattori Hanzo's employee.
- James Parks as Edgar McGraw: The son of Earl McGraw. He is also a policeman.
- Jonathan Loughran as Trucker: a client of Buck, whose attempt at raping the (supposedly) comatose Bride results in her killing him.
- Yuki Kazamatsuri as Proprietor of the House of Blue Leaves.
- Sakichi Sato as Charlie Brown: An employee at the House of Blue Leaves who wears a kimono similar in design to the shirt worn by thePeanuts character.
- Ambrosia Kelley as Nikki Bell, Vernita's 4-year-old daughter; She witnesses The Bride killing her mother, and The Bride offers her a chance to take revenge for it when she gets older, if she still "feels raw about it".
- The Band The 22.214.171.124's (Sachiko Fuji, Yoshiko Yamaguchi and Ronnie Yoshiko Fujiyama) as themselves.
Director Quentin Tarantino intended to produce Kill Bill as one film. With a budget of $55 million, production lasted 155 days. Harvey Weinstein, then co-chief of Miramax Films, was known for pressuring directors to keep their films' running times short. When Tarantino began editing the film, he and Weinstein agreed to split the film so Tarantino could edit a fuller film, and Weinstein could have films with reasonable running times. The decision was announced in July 2003.
The anime sequence was directed by Kazuto Nakazawa and produced by Production I.G, which had produced films including Ghost in the Shell and Blood: The Last Vampire.
Kill Bill's plot was inspired by Lady Snowblood, a 1973 Japanese film in which a woman kills off the gang who murdered her family. The Guardian commented that Lady Snowblood was "practically a template for the whole of Kill Bill Vol. 1".
It references the TV show Yagyū ichizoku no inbō (Japanese for "Intrigue of the Yagyu Clan") by quoting a variant of the speech in the show's opening sequence.
- Yagyu Jubei (Sonny Chiba) [The Yagyu Conspiracy]: "The Secret Doctrine of Ura Yagyu ("Hidden Yagyu") states: 'Once engaged in battle, fight to win. That is the first and cardinal rule of battle. Suppress all human emotions and compassion. Kill whosoever stands in thy way, even if that be a God or Buddha. Only then can one master the essence of the art. Once it is mastered, thou shall fear no one, though even devils block thy way.'"
- Hattori Hanzo XIV (Sonny Chiba) [Kill Bill]: "For those regarded as warriors, when engaged in combat the vanquishing of thine enemy can be the warrior's only concern. Suppress all human emotion and compassion. Kill whoever stands in thy way, even if that be Lord God or Buddha himself. This truth lies at the heart of the art of combat."
The film also references Samurai Reincarnation (1981) by quoting its iconic line: "If you encounter God, God will be cut". Hattori Hanzō is modelled on legendary swordmaker Masamune. The character is also a reference to the Japanese television show Kage no Gundan(Shadow Warriors in America), in which Sonny Chiba portrayed a fictionalized version of the 16th century ninja Hattori Hanzō, as well as his descendants in later seasons. Tarantino, in Volume 1 special features, claims that his film's Hanzō is one of those descendants.
Kill Bill pays tribute to film genres including the spaghetti western, blaxploitation, Chinese wuxia, Japanese yakuza films, Japanese samurai cinema, and kung fu movies of the 1960s and 1970s. This last genre, which was largely produced by the Shaw Brothers, is given an obvious nod by the inclusion of the Shaw Scope logo at the beginning of Kill Bill: Volume 1.
One influential exploitation film that Tarantino has mentioned in interviews is the Swedish Thriller – A Cruel Picture, released in the U.S. asThey Call Her One Eye. Tarantino, who has called Thriller "the roughest revenge movie ever made", recommended that actress Daryl Hannah watch the film to prepare for her role as the one-eyed killer Elle Driver.
Before the end of the list of credits there is a list of names under R.I.P. that mentions further influences
, including Charles Bronson, Chang Cheh, Kinji Fukasaku, Lo Lieh, Shintaro Katsu and William Witney.
As with Tarantino's previous films, Kill Bill features an eclectic soundtrack comprising many musical genres. On the two soundtracks, music ranges from country music to selections from the Spaghetti Western film scores of Ennio Morricone. Bernard Herrmann's theme from the filmTwisted Nerve is whistled by the menacing Elle Driver in the hospital scene. A brief, 15-second excerpt from the opening of the Ironsidetheme music by Quincy Jones is used as the Bride's revenge motif, which flares up with a red-tinged flashback whenever she is in the company of her next target. Instrumental tracks from Japanese guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei figure prominently, and after the success of Kill Billthey were frequently used in American TV commercials and at sporting events. As the Bride enters "The House of Blue Leaves", go-go groupThe 5,6,7,8's perform "I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield," "I'm Blue (The Gong-Gong Song)" and "Woo Hoo." The connection to Lady Snowbloodis further established by the use of "The Flower of Carnage" the closing theme from that film. James Last's "The Lonely Shepherd" by pan flute virtuoso Gheorghe Zamfir plays over the closing credits.
Kill Bill: Volume 1 was released in theaters on October 10, 2003. It was the first Tarantino film in six years since Jackie Brown was released in 1997. In the United States and Canada, Volume 1 was released in 3,102 theaters and grossed $22 million on its opening weekend. It ranked first at the box office, beating School of Rock (in its second weekend) and Intolerable Cruelty (in its first).Volume 1 was the widest theatrical release of Tarantino's career to date, and it was also his highest-grossing opening weekend to date. Previously, Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction (the latter released in 1994) had each grossed $9.3 million on their opening weekends. Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, said Volume 1 's opening weekend gross was significant for a "very genre specific and very violent" film that in the United States was restricted to theatergoers 17 years old and up. According to the studio, exit polls showed that 90% of the audience was interested in seeing the second volume after seeing the first.
Outside the United States and Canada, Kill Bill: Volume 1 was released in 20 territories. The film outperformed its main competitor Intolerable Cruelty in Norway, Denmark and Finland, though it ranked second in Italy. Volume 1 had a record opening in Japan, though expectations were higher due to the film being partially set there and having homages to Japanese martial arts. The film had "a muted entry" in the United Kingdom and Germany due to being restricted to theatergoers 18 years old and up, but "experienced acceptable drops" after its opening weekend in the two territories. By November 2, 2003, it had made $31 million in the 20 territories. Kill Bill: Volume 1 grossed a total of$70 million in the United States and Canada and $110.9 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $180.9 million.
In the United States, Volume 1 was released on DVD and VHS on April 13, 2004, the week Volume 2 was released in theaters.
In a December 2005 interview, Tarantino addressed the lack of a special edition DVD for Kill Bill by stating "I've been holding off because I've been working on it for so long that I just wanted a year off from Kill Bill and then I'll do the big supplementary DVD package."
The United States does not have a DVD boxed set of Kill Bill, though box sets of the two separate volumes are available in other countries, such as France, Japan and the United Kingdom. Upon the DVD release of Volume 2 in the US, however, Best Buy did offer an exclusive box set slipcase to house the two individual releases together.
Volume 1, along with Volume 2, was released in High Definition on Blu-ray on September 9, 2008 in the United States.
Kill Bill: Volume 1 received positive reviews from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 85% based on reviews from 224 critics and reports a rating average of 7.7 out of 10. Its consensus among critics is, "Kill Bill is nothing more than a highly stylized revenge flick. But what style!" At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 69 based on 43 reviews.
A. O. Scott of The New York Times said Tarantino's previous films Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown were "an exploration of plausible characters and authentic emotions". He wrote of Kill Bill: Volume 1, "Now, it seems, his interests have swung in the opposite direction, and he has immersed himself, his characters and his audience in a highly artificial world, a looking-glass universe that reflects nothing beyond his own cinematic obsessions." Scott attributed "the hurtling incoherence of the story" to Tarantino's sampling of different genres that include spaghetti westerns, blaxploitation, and Asian action films. The critic summarized, "But while being so relentlessly exposed to a filmmaker's idiosyncratic turn-ons can be tedious and off-putting, the undeniable passion that drives Kill Bill is fascinating, even, strange to say it, endearing. Mr. Tarantino is an irrepressible showoff, recklessly flaunting his formal skills as a choreographer of high-concept violence, but he is also an unabashed cinephile, and the sincerity of his enthusiasm gives this messy, uneven spectacle an odd, feverish integrity."
Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times called Kill Bill: Volume 1 "a blood-soaked valentine to movies" and wrote, "It's apparent that Tarantino is striving for more than an off-the-rack mash note or a pastiche of golden oldies. It is, rather, his homage to movies shot in celluloid and wide, wide, wide, wide screen—an ode to the time right before movies were radically secularized." Dargis said, "This kind of mad movie love explains Tarantino's approach and ambitions, and it also points to his limitations as a filmmaker," calling the abundance of references sometimes distracting. She recognized Tarantino's technical talent but thought Kill Bill: Volume 1 's appeal was too limited to popular culture references, calling the film's story "the least interesting part of the whole equation".
Cultural historian Maud Lavin argues that The Bride's embodiment of murderous revenge taps into viewers' personal fantasies of committing violence. For audiences, particularly women viewers, this overly aggressive female character provides a complex site for identification with one's own aggression.
Uma Thurman received a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination in 2004. She was also nominated in 2004 for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, in addition with four other BAFTA nominations. Kill: Bill Volume 1 was placed in Empire Magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Films of All Time at number 325 and the Bride was also ranked number 66 in Empire magazine's "100 Greatest Movie Characters".
In the Robot Chicken episode "The Deep End," Jesus Christ hunts down his greatest nemesis, the Easter Bunny, "Tarantino-style" in "Kill Bunny", while also hunting down Santa Claus (in the place of O-Ren Ishii) and the "Crazy Jews" (a parody of the Crazy 88 composing only ofrabbis).
Kill Buljo is a 2007 Norwegian parody of the Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill. It is set in Finnmark, Norway and portrays the protagonist Jompa Tormann's hunt for Tampa and Papa Buljo. The film depends heavily on satirizing stereotypes about Norway's Sami population. According to the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, Quentin Tarantino himself has watched the film's trailer and was quite happy about it, looking forward to seeing the film itself.