Killing The Point

Michael Medved has a piece that criticizes Kill Bill for being little more than a violent gore-fest. While Kill Bill is certainly one of the bloodiest movies in time, almost reminiscent of a Monty Python sketch, there’s also a deeper point to Kill Bill that many critics are missing.

Minor spoilers may follow…

Theres a theme that runs through Kill Bill and influences every event in the movie – revenge. Each of the characters is given a bloody backstory that influences their later actions. When the movie begins with the bloody killing of Vernita Green, Tarantino sums up the entire theme of the movie when the Bride tells her daughter “your mom had it coming.” This is the main thread of the movie – a bloody variation of live by the sword, die by the sword.

No character is blameless. O-Ren Ishii murders her parent’s killers in revenge. The nursing home pimp who has been using The Bride’s comatose body as a comatose prostitute is killed in a scene that is increadibly violent but fitting to the horrific nature of his crimes. While there is a cavalcade of death in the movie, it’s violence directed at those who deserve it, not the kind of random and disgusting killing of many other movies in the genre. There is a moral code at work in Kill Bill, but it is the moral code of the samurai.

At the same time there’s something deterministic about the film. Each character is sent like clockwork towards a predestined path to revenge. Tarantino’s world in this film doesn’t seem to include much room for free will. One action leads to another, as the shooting of the Bride leads her to seek revenge on her would-be killers.

Medved and other critics are missing the point of Kill Bill – the violence is in service to a larger and deeper storyline running under the surface of the story. The problem with drawing conclusions about the film is that it is a work in progress – we’re only getting half the story. The next half could may well take the characters in an entirely different arc – and the shocking conclusion to Part I seems to lead to that conclusion.

While Kill Bill is a bloody movie, that shouldn’t be a shocking revelation for those familiar with the genre. If you’re not a devotee of the genre and you don’t like Tarantino’s other films (many of which are just as bloody as Kill Bill) you won’t like Kill Bill. However, it isn’t quite fair to dismiss the film as just another blood-soaked piece of mindless Hollywood trash either – there is a deeper meaning to the film if one is willing to look beyond the spurting arteries to see it.

4 thoughts on “Killing The Point

  1. We may not agree on politics, Jay, but we’re eye-to-eye on movies. Kill Bill was a brilliant adaptation of Japanese themes of revenge for American audiences. What I really liked was that they avoid the classic post-Christian ideas on revenge, as typified by Hamlet – the idea that revenge is wrong.

    Kill Bill revels in revenge as a morally appropriate endeavor – that has consequences nonetheless. The scene with the little girl is a brilliant hint of that. Medved and others seem to have missed that this isn’t an American movie – it’s a Japanese movie made by an American. If this were a Kurisawa flick Medved would have called it brilliant. But his anti-American artisic elitism can’t see the brilliance beyond the blood. His loss, I’d say.

  2. Now where exactly does Hamlet say that revenge is wrong?

    Did you even read Hamlet? Or see it performed? Hamlet dies at the end. Why would he die if the moral wasn’t “revenge is necessary, but also wrong”? That’s like the major conflict of Hamlet – Hamlet has to take revenge, he swore it, but in his Christian worldview it’s wrong to take revenge, because it co-opts God’s authority to judge sin.

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