Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Trending On Empire
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer
The Farewell To Middle-earth Issue
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe: Get 12 Issues For £25
Buy the perfect Christmas present this year
Farewell To Middle-earth
Full details of our Peter Jackson-edited issue
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

Uma Thurman
David Carradine
Lucy Liu
Daryl Hannah
Vivica A Fox.
Quentin Tarantino.
Quentin Tarantino.
Running Time
100 minutes

2 Star Empire Rating
Theory Of Everything, The
4 Star Empire Rating
Bringing Tibet Home
3 Star Empire Rating
4 Star Empire Rating
4 Star Empire Rating

5 Star Empire Rating
Le Jour Se Lève
5 Star Empire Rating
Tony Benn: Will And Testament
5 Star Empire Rating
5 Star Empire Rating
Babadook, The
5 Star Empire Rating

Kill Bill: Vol. 1
Tarantino's Western Eastern.

submit to reddit

Gunned down on her wedding day by her former colleagues, an assassin (Thurman) wakes from a coma four years later intent on revenge. She makes a 'death list': number five is Bill, but first there are some old workmates to see...

Had tickets to Kill Bill Vol. 1 been made available at half price, it would have been the film event of its year. Sadly, however, the controversial decision to chop in two 'the fourth film by Quentin Tarantino' was not met by an equally bold pricing strategy and, for the second time in 2003, we were left with the difficult task of reviewing a partially completed work.

Vol. 1 comprises five chapters, the first of which opens out of chronological sequence, a narrative tic that is so quintessentially Q.T. it now functions to settle rather than unsettle his native audience. As a pitched battle between two assassins destroys a suburban home in Pasadena, in much the same way as drug overdoses and gun deals have invaded living rooms before now, you might be forgiven for thinking we are squarely in Tarantino territory. Ah, if only. With a sly visual wit - watch out for the arrival of a school bus - and trademark banter, this is the most confident scene in the entire movie.

The rest is a curate's egg. Chapters two to four include an origin story told entirely in anime, a largely subtitled sojourn to a sword-maker which aspires to the gruff humour of Kurosawa's samurai classics but falls short, and a flashback to The Bride's escape from hospital which is pure pitch-black comedy.

The final chapter, meanwhile, is a climax so bloody that - at least for western audiences - much of it takes place in black and white. Accounting for a full third of Vol. 1, you could argue that Chapter Five (and Chapters Two, Three and Four!) could have been trimmed to make Kill Bill work as single, two-hour-plus movie. However, since debate will remain speculative until Vol. 2, we urge you to just sit back and enjoy the splatter.

And what fine splatter it is. If, as rumoured, both parts of Kill Bill were shot for two-thirds of the SFX budget on The Matrix sequels, Tarantino has succeeded in making the Wachowski brothers look very, very silly indeed.

Compared to Q.T.'s slice 'em, dice 'em deli, the much-hyped Neo versus 100 Agent Smiths showdown appears unforgivably gutless and soulless. Moral guardians may be outraged but, after a build that most audiences will find slow, it is the bloody geysers Tarantino uncorks here that will have them joining the queue for the very next showing.

There is much to admire in Vol. 1, not least a performance from Uma Thurman as steely as the plate in her character's head and a knowing soundtrack that effortlessly smears the boundaries between east and west. And yet, there's not quite as much to enjoy as in the breakthrough works; indeed, with Vol. 2 still to come, the appropriate reference might be to Radiohead's difficult albums - Kid A and Amnesiac - which divided critics and cut the fanbase in half.

The loss of limbs features highly in Vol. 1, but the most notable missing appendage belongs to Tarantino himself. At times, the writer-director seems to be working with one hand - his writing hand - tied behind his back. Perhaps he was so fed up of having quotable dialogue thrown back at him that he decided to write a movie without a single memorable line. Or perhaps, after being lauded as an Oscar-winning writer, he wanted to prove himself as an action director.

Kudos to Q.T. - painting like an old master (even John Woo will piss his pants!) first time out is an astonishing achievement, but most people will still miss the signature flourishes of his trusty 'write hand'.

Well, it's a worthy addition to Q.T.'s 24-carat canon and one of the most thrilling movies of 2003, but the real question is, does it stand alone? To which the answer is - just about. But only Vol. 2 will determine if Bill has a heart to go along with all the guts.

Reviewed by Colin Kennedy

Related Reviews

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for Kill Bill: Vol. 1
Empire Star Rating

Ridiculously Bloody

Love it. One of my favorite action films ever. Oh, and nice Radiohead reference in the review. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dogenegra at 10:32, 08 November 2012 | Report This Post

Introducing the American Ninja...

Kill Bill Volume 1 is a violent thriller from Quentin Tarantino. The film doesn't fail to engage it's audience as it throws in epic fighting scenes throughout the rave-making piece of work. Uma Thurman gives us a blood-thirsty character who seeks vengeance to eliminate her formal boss, who shot her four years ago. Tarantino has made a jaw-dropping, humorous movie, exploding at us a brutal tale of revenge. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheBohemianBean at 18:39, 28 October 2012 | Report This Post

absoloutly fantastic ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jackcarlin18 at 23:11, 24 January 2012 | Report This Post


Super cool and bloody. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by antosh25 at 11:37, 06 December 2011 | Report This Post

Fun Classic

A masterpiece of style and creativity combined with one of the most iconic action scenes of all time. Uma Thurman plays the Bride to perfection and the film is extremely fun. Simply entertainment. A little more clever than what the concept would make you believe - 5 stars ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trainedasninja at 08:58, 05 June 2011 | Report This Post

A QT Classic

Definitely one of his more ambitious films and therefore one of his best but not as good as Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Inglourious Basterds. Uma Thurman (my Goddess) is amazing and should've at least been nominated for an oscar, becuase she IS The Bride. And always will be :) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lewistarantino at 01:29, 07 April 2011 | Report This Post

Pure Heaven

Tarantino Thurman Carradine Kung Fu = WOW!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by linkinpython at 18:19, 31 December 2010 | Report This Post

No Memorable Lines?

When I was 12, my parents were out and I watched kill bill part 1 and 2 on DVD, and I can't see why lots of people give it a bad review. It may be unrealistic, but it's a hell of a lot of fun. Especially during the crazy 88 fight, which has what I call "sprinkler system blood. It's the most enjoyable action flick I've seen, with a very nice ending (prt 2). And it does so have a memorable line: "Wiggle your big toe."? Hillarious ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by matthewj.white1234 at 09:14, 04 October 2010 | Report This Post

Classic uma !


Empire User Rating

Posted by spartan24 at 18:05, 21 March 2010 | Report This Post

A stylistic mindfuck of a film, but a superb one at that ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by vermin101 at 05:10, 13 September 2009 | Report This Post

A stylistic mindfuck of a film, but a superb one at that ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by vermin101 at 05:10, 13 September 2009 | Report This Post

Classic QT

(and I'm not quoting the producer when I say that) I enjoyed this film immensley as I am a huge QT fan. Not his best (that would be Pulp Fiction) but it's a terrific film and is one hell of a ride...oh, and Uma Thurman is outstanding in it and delivers probably her best performance (I mean, watch her reaction when she wakes up from her long coma to discover with a horrible jolt that her womb is empty and baby-free). As QT's first proper action movie, it couldn't be better and the master certainl... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by !xHoTRoDx! at 23:06, 04 August 2009 | Report This Post

QT's style is perfect ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ARmy2510 at 13:20, 02 January 2009 | Report This Post


Brilliant ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by andy399 at 18:59, 16 December 2008 | Report This Post

Revenge is a dish best served cold

Awesome film, made as a homage to the Japanese martial arts films, and kung fu movies of the 60s and 70s and what a brilliant tribute it is. Heads and limbs, and blood splurting through the air due to the Brides, "Japanese steel". Uma Thurman is amazing as the Bride and will always be remembered as a result. If your not interested still its worth watching alone for the showdown againist the Crazy 88. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Manhattan at 20:01, 12 December 2008 | Report This Post

one of tarantino's best picures. stunning. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 01:27, 14 October 2008 | Report This Post

here comes the bride...

very good movie and deserves as much recognition as pulp and dogs in my opinion. "wiggle your big toe". This film is seriously entertaining. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tango fett at 22:19, 27 April 2008 | Report This Post

Gimmicky Gunk. But it's not too bad...

Quentin Tarantino let's his inner geek run wild with this bloody and very OTT example of great story writing and very good acting. Tarantino must be out of ketchup after this one, but it's still worth a look. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 12:15, 24 January 2008 | Report This Post

Gimmicky Gunk. But it's not too bad...

Quentin Tarantino let's his inner geek run wild with this bloody and very OTT example of great story writing and very good acting. Tarantino must be out of ketchup after this one, but it's still worth a look. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 12:15, 24 January 2008 | Report This Post

my names buck and i'm here to fuck ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 16:08, 23 October 2007 | Report This Post

my names buck and i'm here to fuck ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 16:08, 23 October 2007 | Report This Post

Absolutly brilliant. Quentin back to his brilliant best ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by davieboy at 11:13, 02 July 2007 | Report This Post

Heads flying blood splattering

Now this is one hell of a crazy movie and normally would have been given 1 star but some how Quentin made it work, and I must say this movie is shit cool. Love it ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by davieboy at 11:12, 02 July 2007 | Report This Post

This is another great black comedy from Tarantino, people who do not see it as this are too wrapped up in the bloody violence, but it is a black comedy, just again he is losing his touch a bit Tarantino, but can you exceed Pulp Fiction? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by willchadwick at 11:12, 27 May 2007 | Report This Post


Thia movie is for women who like blood, violence, samuri swords, Kung fu, and severd heads and limbs on a silver platter. Yum Yum. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by elimonator at 13:51, 16 May 2007 | Report This Post

More user comments


Get the best seat in the house by subscribing to the world's biggest movie magazine today. Save up to 69% and every month you'll get exclusive subscriber-only covers, access to the biggest stars and the best news, reviews and behind-the-scenes reports straight from the set. Click here to find the perfect offer for you

Review Of The Year: 10 Best Soundtracks Of 2014
The scores and OSTs to add to your playlist

Watch: Night At The Museum's Cast Share Their Favourite Robin Williams Performance
Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Ben Kingsley pay tribute to the actor

Watch: Jack O'Connell And Luke Treadaway Talk Unbroken
On POWs, panto and how to name your bomber

Review Of 2014: The 15 Best Cameos Of The Year
Our favourite one-scene movie-stealers

8 Things You Can Learn From The BFI's Star Wars Exhibition
The original crawl, a 'grotesque' villain and a very different princess

Review Of The Year: 40 Worst Posters Of 2014
One-sheets that you'd rather not have on your wall

Hobbit Q&As: Ian McKellen On Finally Saying Goodbye And Farewell To Gandalf The Grey
Read our exclusive Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies interviews

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)