Q&A: Kill Bill

Kill Bill has a group of assassins called the “Deadly Vipers” and the main character gets out of the job because she becomes pregnant with Bill’s child and doesn’t want her baby to grow up in that kind of environment. Is this at all believable or realistic for an assassin in the real world sense, or is it just sentimental garbage?

This isn’t a simple up and down, there’s three different pieces here, and there’s no single, “yes/no” answer. And, yeah, I’m going to be spoiling this film, but since the question already kinda did, it’s a little late for a warning.

The Vipers aren’t consistent with the real world. They’re not supposed to be. Kill Bill isn’t that kind of film. Films, really, because in spite of being two parts of the same narrative, they are very distinct pieces, rather than two acts in an ongoing story. Most of what I’m saying revolves around Volume 2, not the first film.

At the center of the second film, there’s a very realistic, and almost healthy, emotional core. More healthy than many people in similar situations tend to react at anyway.

The shell story for Kill Bill is: A woman wakes up from a coma and then goes on a rampage of revenge (the films actually use this phrase) against the former friends/coworkers who put her there.

That’s not particularly realistic. I mean, the general motivation, sure, but the entire thing is very formalistic. This also, classic Tarantino. He loves working with very pulpy genres (in this case, martial arts films), and then digging into them. In the case of Kill Bill, you can think of the shell story as a candy coating designed to keep you from realizing what you just bit into. Like I said, this is something Tarantino loves to do. He’ll offer you a bit of violent escapist fantasy, and then offer up some really vicious commentary once you’ve bought in. Sometimes, you don’t even realize it’s there until someone else points it out.

With that in mind, Kill Bill is not about a woman taking revenge against her attackers. That’s the story, not what it’s about. It is about a woman and her daughter getting away from an abusive, controlling, ex. The violence, and story are Tarantino’s candy coating, so you would sit down and engage with that material, even if, you’re not the kind of person who would willingly watch that.

We have ample opportunities to see Bill’s (David Carradine) behavior through the film. This is someone who sought to maintain ownership of Kiddo (Uma Thurman).

I’ll be honest, my feelings are, Kiddo isn’t bothered by the kind of life she lived, even though she says otherwise. And, I’ll defend this with a detail that may seem fairly flimsy, but the film she and her daughter sit down to watch before she goes to confront Bill is Shogun Assassin. If you’re unfamiliar, the protagonist is a falsely accused man, who goes into exile becoming an assassin with his young son. This is a little too on the nose to be an accident.

Wanting to get out of a toxic relationship, with a controlling and abusive partner is entirely reasonable, and realistic. Bill’s actions are a little extreme, but certainly within the range of the legitimate threat people like him pose.

Kiddo’s behavior is also realistic, to an extent, at least as metaphor. The desire to get her child away from Bill is reasonably grounded. Her entire campaign of revenge probably isn’t exactly a healthy response to an abusive partner, but cutting ties with someone like that is, including mutual acquaintances who will take their side. Not, you know, killing them in front of their children, but cutting them out of your life.

So, is it realistic? Yeah, kinda. Not the surface layer of people spraying blood like malfunctioning lawn sprinklers, but the emotional meat of the second film has more weight than than the hyper-violent fights would suggest.

Is it a good film? I’m not sure. It’s not my favorite Tarantino film, and I can’t blame anyone who looks at it and writes it off as violent spectacle without any redeeming qualities (especially the first film). There is more, and some of that is grounded, but more as parable than at face value.

Are any of Tarantino’s films realistic? Not using the metric you asked for, but that’s kinda missing the point. Tarantino’s talking about something, usually in parallel to the story. Habitually he wraps those themes in an incredibly violent, almost surreal, setting (his films share a setting). That said, I can’t remember if Kill Bill is explicitly part of the same world as Pulp Fiction, and Reservoir Dogs, or if it’s intended as a film in that setting. (This is the case with Dusk ‘Till Dawn, for example.)

Something worth saying, again, if these films are not your thing, I don’t hold that against you at all. Tarantino’s entire career has been characterized by violence designed to be uncomfortable. This is entirely intentional. If that’s something you honestly can’t deal with; no judgement.

-Starke

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