By Chris Davis | 4 October 2018
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) was 30 million dollars’ worth of ultraviolence, a star with no previous martial arts training, and a director with a flair for dramatics. Should martial artists be offended or excited that this movie was so successful (and continues to be a pseudo-cult classic)?
Quentin Tarantino stated his ideas come from movies that he used to watch as a kid. Kung Fu flicks list high among those movies. Tarantino does seem to have an understanding of the Kung Fu genre and Kill Bill Vol. 1 is not just some money grab. He meant it as an artful homage to the martial arts flicks of his youth, along with plenty of blood and special effects.
Tarantino taps his idol Gordon Liu as Pai Mei. Several other Asian-American actors gained notoriety through this movie. It helped push martial arts movies further into the spotlight of American cinema.
Actor Training – How To Look Good
Uma Thurman plays the main character in Kill Bill, the Vengeful Bride. Thurman said that she had no martial arts training before the training she undertook for Kill Bill, although she had dance training from other movies. Her physical performance in the film showcased far more ability and poise than the average three-month white belt.
Fortunately, many other actors had prior martial arts experience. The choreography of the fight scenes went smoothly with actors trained to make martial arts look good.
Perhaps one of the harshest realities of Hollywood is the illusion of reality – action on the screen must look real to the audience, and it doesn’t matter if it really works or not. Jackie Chan was a master at this, as shown by his decades of Kung Fu movie experience and outlined in detail in the "Jackie Chan, a Glimpse of Kung Fu Comedic Success" post.
A Fight Scene Sampler Platter
The first death brawl in Kill Bill kitsch pits the Bride against her former partner, played by Vivica Fox in a mix of Jackie Chan comedy and spaghetti western barroom fight. They throw everything at each other except the kitchen sink. In the end, there is plenty of blood, gore, and dead bodies.
As the Bride progresses through her enemies, she faces a Hattori Hanzo (Shin'ichi Chiba) sword fight, a knockout brawl with Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), a Sword of Doom style samurai duel against O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), a Vengeance is a Golden Blade special weapon of Gogo Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama), and a Have Sword Will Travel legion fight with many other characters.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 stretches the meaning of traditional Kung Fu into a movie genre that pitches any kind of fight possible with the highest death count. Real martial artists, especially practitioners of Kung Fu, should be happy it inspired so many kids to join schools and classes, even if real Kung Fu stresses discipline and peaceful paths over gory bloodshed.