5. It Provides the Right Balance of Action and Comedy
This is something of which many Tarantino films achieve a nice balance, but in “Kill Bill”, it is most effective. The film requires action and lends itself to comedy, and this balance stops the audience from fidgeting in their seats waiting for something interesting to happen.
There are many comedic moments strewn across the film, almost as a counter to some piece of action that has just happened. For instance, the comedic duo of Hattori Hanzo and his clumsy assistant, playing off The Bride’s ‘ditzy American in Japan’ shtick, comes right after the O-Ren backstory full of intense fight scenes.
There are many more, of course: The Pussy Wagon gag after The Bride’s fight out of the hospital, the Crazy 88 member that gets spanked and sent home to his mother, and of course, the scene where The Bride and Copperhead must play nice in front of Copperhead’s child after a deadly battle in her house.
This balance is not replicated as well in his other films. “Pulp Fiction” has great comedic moments, but the action is more dramatic and less fight orientated. “Inglourious Basterds” has a good balance, but it could be argued that as the film is longer, the space between each moment is drawn out and less effective. “Kill Bill Vol. 1”, at a run time of under two hours, hits the nail on the head.
4. It Innovates the Samurai Revenge Genre
As mentioned earlier regarding homages, Tarantino has brought several cultural influences into this samurai revenge classic, and it is these influences that innovate the genre. The Chinese/American grindhouse influence adds an element of ‘fun for fun’s sake’ to the somewhat serious Japanese samurai and anime influences, and ties together perfectly with some mild western influences.
All in all, you get the dramatic build-up of a group of deadly assassins and a victim seeking her due revenge ending with a Leone-esque stand-off and the fun involved with that. But why does this make the film rewatchable? It’s simply because it is unique and appeals to multiple urges at once. You may feel in the mood for a 70’s martial arts film, you may feel like watching the story of a legendary sword and the Ronin that wields it, or you may want a simple good vs. bad cowboy standoff. In “Kill Bill”, you get all three.
3. It Gets Better with Every Watch
This may seem like a moot point, but hear it out. Of course, most Tarantino films are rewatchable, and some also do get better with re-watches (perhaps not “The Hateful Eight”, “Jackie Brown” and “Reservoir Dogs”, just because of how plot-focused they are), but none of them contain the amount of lore in their characters that “Kill Bill Vol. 1” has.
There are so many intricate details of the characters shown so briefly in “Kill Bill” that give insight to a rich backstory. For example, the O-Ren backstory adds a much deeper dimension to her character, but who killed her father? The insane character Pretty Riki could be Bill. An accurate source has yet to be found, but supposedly this was confirmed by David Carradine and if it’s true, it makes you wonder how O-Ren ever forgave Bill. Nevertheless, Pretty Riki is a very interesting character that leaves many wanting to know more about him.
Going into O-Ren’s accomplices, Sofie Fatale (who is also a model for Red Apple Cigarettes) is valued very highly by Bill. She talks with him on the phone, and she is used as leverage by The Bride against Bill. It makes you wonder what unspoken events happened with those characters. This is all without mentioning how interesting and detailed all of the other characters in the DiVAS are.
When you have this rich world of characters, it makes a re-watch that much more valuable; there are still mysteries to solve and theories to make. Even if theorycrafting isn’t something you find valuable, the fact that the characters are so in-depth makes a more interesting re-watch experience.
2. The House of Blue Leaves
This has been referenced so many times already, but of course, this is one of the reasons “Kill Bill Vol. 1” is so rewatchable. Taking up about 30 minutes of the film and named after a John Guare play in which The House of Blue Leaves is the name of a mental asylum, this intense array of dazzling action and tension that has been building up between O-Ren and The Bride is a much-anticipated part of every re-watch.
We can talk about the circle of Crazy 88 around the Bride and that fight; we can talk about the blue silhouette fight and the Gogo fight; or we can talk about the O-Ren fight. All options are extremely entertaining and interesting for many reasons, but the most interesting interplay of character-driven action is in the fight between The Bride and O-Ren.
“You won’t last five minutes.”
The fight lasts for 4 minutes and 59 seconds and shows off a beautiful snow-covered garden as the two fight it out. “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” plays as each starts cockier than they finish with O-Ren doubting that The Bride even holds a Hanzo sword. As The Bride is injured, she sees the eyes of the professional killer in front of her and begs for more. Striking her leg, there is silence as the water fountain dips and these characters come to respect each other. It harkens to moments of westerns where the big finale is drawn out until the final gunshot and much like that, The Bride’s sword comes to O-Ren’s scalp.
It could be argued that O-Ren is a more interesting and badass character than even Bill, and this showdown as well as the entire sequence in The House of Blue Leaves demands a re-watch.
1. It’s Not Plot Focused, It’s Fun Focused
This comes from the very heart of “Kill Bill Vol. 1” and is possibly what the director wanted to achieve. The film isn’t there to build mystery around what will happen at the end – it’s called “Kill Bill”. Going into this, you know that Bill’s going to die. The only thing that matters is what unfolds during the film and how fun each scene is to watch.
Tarantino is a master of knowing what audiences want to see and when, and in this amalgamation of cinema, what audiences want is to have fun. This works with every element discussed thus far. The music is there to hype up the excitement, the action and comedy are purely entertainment devices, and the homages fuel each scene with nostalgic energy, forcing the associations in your head that this film is fun.
No other Tarantino movie pulls this off as successfully. Whether it’s the run time that drags down the energy; the genre; the balance of action, drama, and comedy; or the pacing, “Kill Bill Vol. 1” is the film that leaves you wanting more.
Author Bio: Charlton Lansley is an Australian writer/director that has a passion for talking about movies. He loves arthouse, B movies, genre films and everything in between.