There's ironic-stupid, and there's stupid. Kill Bill is just stupid.
What happened to Quentin Tarantino? Did the gods punish him? Or has he atrophied from lack of work and an oversupply of sycophants in his entourage?
There are a lot of directors and writers and assorted humans whom I enjoy watching fail in full public view, but I took no pleasure in witnessing this Tarantino debacle. Kill Bill is a painfully embarrassing viewing experience, like watching Muhammad Ali trying to be witty and menacing while Parkinson's disease twists his head like a Krazy Top. Or... like seeing a great artist fail -- think Martin Scorcese's Bringing Out The Dead, or anything by Lou Reed after The Blue Mask.
There isn't a lot to say about Kill Bill because it isn't about much. Or rather, it's about the fact that Tarantino thinks it's really cool that he likes 70s karate movies. So he makes a 70s karate movie, only it's done in 2003, with a twist. The twist? He uses...get this...girls as the karate killers. Get it? I know, I know, it's incredibly daring and original to switch gender roles like that. But hey, that's ol' Quentin for yuh, just throwing you for a loop like that.
Then there's the dialogue. Tarantino decided it would be doubly-cool if the American women spoke in the same fake, stilted, pompous dialogue of real winkie flicks. So throughout the movie the heroine, played by Uma Thurman, speaks like one of the winkies from "A Fistful of Yen." No, actually she doesn't, because "A Fistful of Yen," the main sketch in "Kentucky Fried Movie," was actually funny and original; Tarantino doesn't even offer that. He simply thought it would be a cool twist to make his dialogue straight out of a translated Japanese B-movie. And Tarantino's Hollywood sycophants yapped in agreement, "That's such a cool concept, Quentin...you're so ironic and daring!"
Only that could explain Uma Thurman's voiceover dialogue, including the classic line about her nemesis' "Shakespearean-in-magnitude struggle to gain control of the Tokyo underworld." That's right: "Shakespearean-in-magnitude" as an adjective in a Tarantino movie. If you think that's clever or ironic, that it works because it was "meant to be bad dialogue," and not simply stupid, then fella, you and I are gonna tangle. Mano a mano.
But the real failure is that Kill Bill is not funny at all. I realize now how crucial comedy has been in Tarantino's movies: comedy covered up his stupidity and pretentiousness.
The first half of Kill Bill doesn't even try to be funny. It's just boring, but at least it promises some sort of payoff. Then when Uma Thurman comes to Japan to seek revenge against her nemesis, those ol' Tarantino-esque hijinks ensue. What Tarantino-esque hijinks, you ax? Welp, I'll tell ya. He has a scene where the master of a sushi bar gets into a master-servant quarrel with his underling, full of slapstick and jokes about balding. I swear, Police Academy 6 wasn't this bad. I know that Tarantino's excuse would be that he's just doing a faithful rendition of a 70s B-karate film. Well wooptie-frickin-do.
So the premise sucks, the movie isn't funny at all, the dialogue sucks huge dingleberries, and the acting is oddly bland.
Kill Bill is so bad that I have to wonder if Tarantino was a moron all along who just happened to get lucky with Pulp Fiction, a truly brilliant movie that has aged well, and Jackie Brown, a spotty movie whose great parts are every time Samuel Jackson appears.
Samuel Jackson. That's what's missing. That poor bastard made Tarantino, he made him look like a genius. And never got the Oscar he deserved, proving that a black man...Hollywood...it ain't legal.
It made me think that an ad should be run before viewing Kill Bill: "This is Quentin Tarantino." [Show movie theater, people thrilled, laughing] and then "This is Quentin Tarantino without Samuel Jackson." [Show movie theater nearly empty, few people remaining either angry, asleep or vomiting.] "Any questions?"