It's not easy to look at a Quentin Tarantino film and come out saying, "That's it?" After all, plenty of people would love to see Kill Bill decried for all the wrong reasons--it's shallow, it's violent and it brings new meaning to the idiom "paint the town red." Given these misguided complaints, Kill Bill could have been exactly what it set out to be: the perfect homage. A stylish, slick, modern incarnation of the kung-fu flicks of old. Unfortunately, it appears that about 15 minutes into the movie, Tarantino forgot he was directing a martial arts movie and decided he'd throw in a good hour of John Woo-esq Hong Kong opera. Not the exciting chases or gun fights, mind you. Just mind-numbingly cliched and predictable character development.
The problem with Kill Bill really isn't in the action; in fact, when the movie does rise to the occasion of providing something to sink your teeth into, it does everything right. Everything is credible in a hammy sort of way, nobody's winning any awards for precision or skill here, but there's a feeling that spectacular wire stunts or superior choreography would just ruin the nostalgia. The movie has enough clever tools to move past the need for such cheap and easy solutions, in any case, fighting in silhouttes against a dim backdrop, a dramatic shot captured in slow motion and greyscale... and, of course, the near comically gratitious blood. Too bad they only found room for about 20 minutes.
The filler between the short introductory standoff and epic grand finale is mostly comprised of an attempt to add merit on some level deeper than hacking off people's limbs and exchanging taunts in Japanese. During this time, we are primarily focused on the characters of Lucy Liu (Cottonmouth) and Sonny Chiba (Hattori Hanzo). Tarantino offers us an extensive account of Cottonmouth's past from the age of eight, all the way to the present, all of which can be adequetly summarized in the single action of cutting off an underling's head for perceived insubordination. When "The Bride" (Uma Thurman) goes to visit Hattori Hanzo, some excellent comic relief comes of it, but the whole thing falls flat on its face as soon as her true purpose becomes apparent.
While Tarantino was in production, he described himself as "gorged" on martial arts movies of the past. Then, perhaps it's fair to consider this his indulgence. It could be the flat characters that appear here have more depth, traits he was unable to demonstrate due to the limits of the medium. If you can get past that, then you'll the diamonds in the rough in Kill Bill.