Rating: R for excessive gore and violence, language
Run Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Six years after the release of his last film, Quentin Tarantino comes out of the box with a vengeance, intent on the idea of parlaying hardcore grind-house into trendy art-house.
“Bill” has Tarantino written all over it. Heavily homage-driven (“Five Fingers of Death”, “Master of the Flying Guillotine”), the crux of “Bill’s” slaughter-opera narrative is revenge. Not tricky, clever revenge, but a straightforward kill-you and cross-your-name-off-the-list revenge.
Black Mamba (Uma Thurman) is the avenger, determined to have her way with the folks who put her in a world of hurt over four years ago. The sole survivor of a wedding-day massacre orchestrated by Bill (headless body and voice of David Carradine), Mamba operates on the principle that the vanquishing of thine enemy can be a warrior’s only concern. Mamba sets out to take down Bill and his evil henchmen, the deadly Viper Assassination Squad, compromised of the world’s most deadly killers.
This being Volume 1, we are left with a half-finished to-do list. The rest of the Viper Squad (including eyes-on-the-prize Bill) will presumably be vanquished in February, when Volume 2 splatters up the big screen.
Tarantino is all about cutting-edge style, supported by a shaky foundation of tricky editing and flashy counterpoint. “Crouching Tiger” moves segue into gorgeously choreographed swordplay, mixed together with grisly animation and kicky chapter titles. Best of show is the opening confrontation, a gruesome suburban brawl pitting a resolute Mamba against born-again housewife Vernita Green, nee Copperhead (Vivica A. Fox). The happy trappings of suburbia are an unconventional contrast to the concept of cold-blooded killing.
How “Bill” escaped an NC-17 rating is beyond me. The gore is ever- present and excessive, spewing and splattering far beyond the reaches of an R. The story’s chronology is equally messy, jumping to and fro with little regard for sequential time. Despite its lack of a comprehensible backstory and its excessive thirst for the slice-and-dice, this is Tarantino at his extravagant hipster best.