Kill Bill (2003)

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Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” compresses much of what the director is most famous for into less than 2 hours (a pretty slim runtime for his standards): gratuitous violence, his particular brand of dialogue, a wealth of cinematic references, and an unflinching formal perfectionism. It channels and tributes the genre and exploitation films of years past in a modern package, with little time spent on exploring characters or themes. This makes it, strangely enough, a candidate for his most focused work, even though that focus leaves out most of the substance.

Tarantino can be criticized for prioritizing style over substance in almost all of his films, and there is a worthy debate to be had concerning the rest of his filmography. But in “Kill Bill,” he leaves that discussion at the door; the entire film is an intentional epitomization of style at the expense of all else. It is impossible to deny the technical expertise on display here, with the final choreographed fight sequence(s) being the most pressing and noticeable examples. But the whole film fills each frame so particularly that it demands acknowledgement and admiration for Tarantino’s (and his team’s) skill and passion. The love of cinema and devotion to craft are apparent in each beat.

Whether or not it creates a compelling filmgoing experience otherwise will likely depend on your taste for Tarantino’s particular brand of storytelling. As someone who often struggles with certain elements of his work, “Kill Bill” seemed especially hollow to me despite how much I marveled at its technical achievements.

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