Killer Bitch

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“Dogged by issues, I’d say.”

You could call this a foul-mouthed, borderline misogynist, zero budget piece of trash, with no coherent plot, where it seems every other word is a F-bomb or C-missile, and most of the lines are not so much spoken, as yelled. I wouldn’t argue with such an assessment, and understand perfectly why it is rated 1.4 on IMDb. And, yet… It has a relentless and manic energy which makes Crank look like a Merchant-Ivory costume drama. Put another way: unlike the overlong Rogue One, I did not fall asleep here, and it will likely stick in my mind longer than the three other, far more polished productions, which I watched the same day. Probably because, unlike this, they did not have a topless little person being tossed off a roof.

The tone is set early, in an opening scene which has British porn star Ben Dover having sex with an artificially-inflated woman, who then stabs him repeatedly. This may be some kind of tribute to Basic Instinct. Or maybe not. The actual plot involves Yvette (Rowland), owner of a model agency, who suddenly finds herself forced to take part in a bizarre game, where she has to kill five specified people. If she doesn’t, her workmates, friends and family will be murdered instead, something the tattooed, foul-mouthed thug (Marriner) working for those running the game, is more than happy to do. “Fortunately” for the film, Yvette’s model agency specializes in soft-porn, which leads to multiple scenes of photoshoots being interrupted by said thug, who kills the photographer, has sex with the model and then kills her. Subtle, it ain’t. Meanwhile, Yvette gets help from a couple of former game players (Reid and – no relation – Reid), on her journey transforming from a mouse into the title creature.

The cast are largely non-professionals, being a parade of C-list celebs, MMA fighters, former gangsters, football hooligans, glamour models etc. and the performances are about what you’d expect from that. On the plus side, almost everyone is playing little more than themselves – sometimes even explicitly themselves – so I guess can only be considered convincing enough in those roles. No-one is going to claim Rowland was overlooked for the Oscars, but she channels Eileen Daly effectively enough, and at least she stayed. In contrast, Reid #1 (Alex) walked off the film in mid-production, leading to his being replaced by Reid #2 (Robin); it probably says quite a lot about the slapdash way this is thrown together, that it doesn’t make much difference.

There is so much here that is quite clearly intended to shock and offend, but it’s an intent which robs the film of actual transgressive quality. That said, I must confess I did laugh on occasion, such as at the fight in the ice-cream van, and there were times when the relentlessly sweary dialogue took on an almost hypnotic quality, through repetition. Against this, it’s often painfully inept, with continuity gaffes so blatant even I noticed them, like the sex scene where Reid (I forget which one) has his trousers up or down, depending on the shot. But, dammit, it’s not a film I’m going to forget in a hurry, and even if that’s not necessarily a good thing here, it’s still preferable to something bland and rapidly lost in the mists of memory.

Dir: Liam Galvin
Star: Yvette Rowland, Jason Marriner, Alex Reid, Robin Reid

Kill La Kill

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“Not sure if serious…”

killlakillAfter I watched the first episode of this show, I was sure it was a delicious parody of anime shows, particular the “super-powered high-school” genre. It seemed to be taking the concepts of shows such as Sailor Moon, say, and ramping everything up to 11. The violence, in particular, is somewhere beyond Dragon Ball Z in terms of excess, except with copious additional amounts of arterial spray – though people survive far beyond the point at which any normal person would be a desiccated husk. I mean, just look at that heroine’s outfit on the right. They cannot be serious, can they? But the longer this went on… the less sure I was whether it was a parody. If it is, it’s an impressively straight-faced one.

The setting is Honnouji Academy, a Tokyo high school ruled over by Satsuki Kiryuin (Yuzuki), who runs the place as a neo-fascist regime, enforcing her will through selected pupils. Her chosen ones are enhanced by “Goku uniforms” of various levels, made from a strange substance called life fibers, which give the wearer superhuman abilities. But into this comes Ryuko Matoi (Koshimizu), a transfer student with an agenda all her own – as well as her own enhanced uniform, a sentient outfit called Senketsu (Seki), and half of a pair of giant scissors, which she starts using to take out Satsuki’s minions. For Ryuko is seeking the killer of her father, the scientist who developed Senketsu, and seems like Satsuki played a significant role in that murder.

There’s more. A lot more. Suffice it to say that just about no-one here is quite what they seem, right down to the life fibers, and by the time you reach the final episode, loyalties and alliances have gone to a completely different landscape. For something which feels like it should be shallow, tongue in cheek and certainly has copious amounts of fan service (albeit being fairly even-handed in its OTT depiction of both sexes), there’s clearly considerable effort gone into the plotting. But, let’s be honest, the main focus here is on the fights, as Ryuko first makes her way up the chain of command toward her nemesis, and then discovers the truth about what’s going on and has to recalibrate her sights. There’s hardly one of the 24 x 25-minute episodes which does not consist of at least one-third major, major animated mayhem, with Ryoko beating the tar out of one or more enemies, and taking as much damage as she receives.

As such, it does get somewhat repetitive – if you’ve seen Ryuko’s transformation sequence once, you’ve seen it several dozen times – and there isn’t much sense of escalation to the action. But it is brashly hyper-energetic, relentlessly female-driven, largely romance free and perfect for viewing in small, highly-caffeinated doses. If only I could figure out whether or not it was intended to be one big in-joke or not, I know whether or not to feel guilty about enjoying it.

Dir: Hiroyuki Imaishi
Star: Ami Koshimizu, Ryoka Yuzuki, Aya Suzaki, Toshihiko Seki

Kyoko vs. Yuki

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“Dead boring. Note: that is not just a critical opinion, it’s a statement of content…”

kyokovsyukiThe ultimate high school girl assassin Kyoko (code name 2029), who was raised by a mysterious underground organization finally became active. Meanwhile, the high school girl Yuki (born in 1983) with a reputation for being the strongest fighter in town, was living carefree every day with her girlfriend. And then, when the two met, a bloody battle for the title of “strongest high school girl” began…

Well, it sounded promising. Unfortunately, even though this lasts 52 minutes, the execution is so woefully inept, that you would be much better off watching half of Half Revenge Milly. The plot sees Kyoko (Fujikawa), having completed her training, sent on a mission to retrieve a suitcase of drugs which has been stolen from the organization that employs her. The Yakuza who stole it is currently living it up with what he thinks is a schoolgirl prostitute, but is actually Yuki (Satomi), who is intent on rolling her “compensated dating” boyfriend. She does so to help her lesbian lover, Miki (Satô), left deep in debt after acting as guarantor for a loan taken out by her sister, who has since vanished. However, when Kyoko finds out the pair now have her employer’s possessions, her revenge is swift and brutal, setting up a subsequent confrontation between her and Yuki.

Director Yamanouchi apparently has a bit of a “reputation” for sleaze, and that certainly seems justified here. Not so much for the lesbian sex, which pretty much par for the course: it’s the subsequent excursion into lesbian necrophilia for which this one will be remembered. It certainly won’t be for the fight scenes, which are feeble in the extreme, poorly-staged and possible even more badly edited. Sure, it’s clear that none of the actresses here were employed for their martial-arts abilities – even if, curiously, Fujikawa keeps her clothes on. Yet given the premise, you’d have thought those involved would at least have made some effort, albeit a token one. Nope. It’s wretched on just about every level, and even the splatter seem unenthusiastic, save for a mildly effective umbrella through the face. Oh, and I did laugh at Yuki taking her bra off and using it to try and choke Kyoko.

Maybe that’s really what this is: a parody of the genre, deliberately made to be piss-poor. However, from what I’ve read about Yamanouchi’s other work, it seems unlikely: satires doesn’t appear to be his bag, and this is described, in more than one place, as relatively restrained by the director’s own standards. That probably isn’t a good thing: if you don’t have production values… Or good actors… Or a script… Then at the very least, you should go full-throttle and embrace the madness, and it’s what the best of these J-film entries do. This one? Not so much.

Dir: Daisuke Yamanouchi
Star: Kyoko Fujikawa, Yôko Satomi, Kinako Satô

The Keeping Room

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“Clearly nothing civil about this war.”

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The second half of 2015 seems to have seen a flood of “revisionist” – whatever that term means – Westerns. We’ve already had the likes of Bone Tomahawk and The Revenant, with The Hateful 8 due out imminently. This is another along similar lines, though also has a debt to Cold Mountain, sharing a theme of Civil War women forced into surviving on their own, with the menfolk off fighting each other. In this case, it’s two siblings, Augusta (Marling) and Louise (Steinfeld), along with their black maid (Otaru), who are barely scraping a living out of the land. When Louise is bitten by a racoon, her sister rides into town to seek medicine, but encounters Moses (Worthington) and his colleagues, the advance guard of the approaching Union army. He takes a shine to her, but she rebuffs his advances at the point of her rifle; that only spurs the men on, so they follow her back to the house and lay siege to the three inhabitants, driven by an apparent combination of lust, and a desire to take revenge for their humiliation.

This opens with a quote from Civil War General, William Sherman: “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over,” and that’s an appropriate quote, since the moral here appears to be that there are times when barbarism needs to be met with equal or greater force. Augusta, in particular, is a great exponent of this, pragmatic and down to earth. When Louise tries to deflect a chore by whining, “She’s the nigger, she should do it,” her sister chides her in response, “Like I told you, Louise: We all niggers now.” However, even Augusta falls prey to the convenient flaw most commonly seen in the “final girl” of slasher films: failing to finish off your opponent when you have them at your mercy, in this case wandering off and leaving Otis after knocking him out. It has to be said, I was close to yelling “Shoot him in the head! IN THE HEAD!” at the screen there.

Barber also has a flawed concept of pace, the film grinding to a halt just when it should be escalating relentlessly, in order for the maid to deliver a lengthy monologue about an incident that happened when she was 10. While not irrelevant, it really needed to be somewhere else in the film, as it derails all the tension built up to that point. It’s a shame, as there has been a strong sense of looming and ever-encroaching violence, right from the opening scene, depicting an encounter between a slave and a stagecoach. While infuriatingly flawed in a number of ways, not least Barber’s over-obvious direction, Marling’s performance in particular does make it worth watching, and the story reveals a side of the war not previously brought to the screen, to my knowledge.

Dir: Daniel Barber
Star: Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Muna Otaru, Sam Worthington

Kickboxer’s Tears

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“Tears are not enough.”

kickboxersA truly crappy plot here, used to link fight scenes that range from the boring – that would be the actual kickboxing, which greatly outstays its welcome – to the impressive. Li Feng (Lee) is visiting her kickboxer brother in Hong Kong, when he is killed by a cheating opponent, after refusing to take a dive on the orders of Mr Wong (Lung). The death also throws into jeopardy the family training gym/healthcare establishemnt [a crossover at which no-one blinks an eye], which was already financially shaky. To both get revenge, and earn enough money to stabilize things, Li goes to Wong, and demands an underground rematch against his fighter. When that happens, but leaves her opponent permanently paralyzed, Mrs. Wong (Yukari Oshima), who is the victim’s brother, as well as the promoter’s wife, demands a winner-take-all match to the death. And she kidnaps Li’s semi-boyfriend (Lam) to make sure Li  turns up for the contest.

This 1992 Hong Kong film has the same jarring shifts in tone present in many of that time and place. Given the sombre nature of the core situation, there really shouldn’t be any room for slapstick humor – yet there are at least two comic relief characters too many here, and I found myself cringing in just about every one of their scenes. The early action is more than a bit ropey too: while it may be ‘authentic’ kick-boxing, it’s pretty dull to watch, and it’s only when the film moves outside the ring that things become interesting, especially when Lee gets going. She has one great street-fight against a group of thugs, another in a restaurant when she’s proving her worth to Wong as an opponent, and of course, the all too brief duel which pits her – literally, since they’re in a pit – against Oshima. All three are a great combination of inventiveness and hard-nosed action, also showcasing Lee’s great flexibility [there’s also an eye-popping training scene, where her character casually does what is best described as the vertical splits].

However, to appreciate these sequences, you are going to have to sit through story-telling of the most cliched sort, plus acting from her supporting cast that would be rejected as lacking in subtlety by Adam Sandler. Particularly irritating is the finale which has three fight scenes going on at once, cross-cutting between them to the detriment of all three, then robs Li of being able to take her thoroughly-deserved revenge personally, before ending so abruptly, I was left wondering if the final ten pages of script had fallen into a shredder, and the makers decided just to do without them. All these other aspect are significantly sub-optimal, and ten good minutes of action do not sufficiently outweigh them. Especially not when those ten minutes are embedded below, saving you an hour and twenty. You’re welcome!

Dir: Da Wei Shen
Star: Moon Lee, Wilson Lam, Mark Cheng, Lung Fong

Killer Biker Chicks

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“Vanity kills.”

killerbikerchicksOh, dear. I’m sure those involved with the production and their mates loved this. To anyone on the outside… Much less so. However, the problem is not actually the concept, of an all-female biker gang, which had a long, disreputable B-movie pedigree, going back at least to the sixties, with Herschell Gordon Lewis’s She-Devils on Wheels and similar films. The women here operate under the leadership of “Mother” (Gorlano), and in something apparently inspired by Sons of Anarchy, run a garage/bar that doubles as gang HQ, from where they also deal meth to passing truckers (and midgets), while taking their tops off at random intervals – in particular Baby Doll (Roth). Possible related: there may be a strip-club that’s part of it, but the film is vague on the details of their infrastructure.  The movie starts well enough, with them out in the desert torturing a man who had done one of them an unspecified wrong, dousing him in gas and setting him on fire.

If the film had stayed here or hereabouts, things would have been significantly better. But the next time we see them, their numbers are inexplicably reduced to a level where they could have their gang meetings in a phone-box. Worst still, writer-director Redding instead chooses to dilute his material with a bunch of truly dreadful supporting characters, who range from superfluous down to the point that you will be praying for a power outage to save you. In the former category are a passing band, Glam Puss, whose van breaks down on their way to a gig, and who have to hang out at the ladies’ establishment for a couple of days. They do actually provide the only genuine laugh in the film, with their reactions to a story from Mother’s earlier years. Further down the scale, at “gratingly cliched,” are a pair of corrupt cops who spent their time hassling and shaking-down citizens, when not hanging out at a strip-club, whose owner is played by Ted V. Mikels, the infamous director of some god-awful works we’ve covered here before. That the makers think him deserving of a cameo should be seen as a warning of what to expect.

Right at the bottom of the barrel, however, are the “comedic stylings” of Rusty Meyers as Hawksmeir, an Azerbaijani tourist. Within two minutes, you’ll be left with deep appreciation for the comparative subtle understatement that was Borat – indeed, through in a Chinese store-owner who is less convincing than Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and you’ve got something which is embarrassingly unfunny at best, and quite possibly offensive [and, don’t forget, I’m someone who loves Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, so do not offend easily]. Almost as annoying is the soundtrack, which appears to consist largely of bands who put the director on the guest-list or something, and is rarely less than aggravatingly intrusive. These, together with random acts of motiveless (and, apparently, pointless) violence by Mother and her crew, dominate proceedings until the last quarter, where a drug deal with another biker gang, the Rebel Cocks, goes wrong, leading to the final confrontation.

Great B-movies take interesting central characters, then put them in situations that drive the storyline forward, and possess a consistent style and approach that complements the content. This merits a marginal passing grade on the first category, but fails utterly at the second, and Redding appears to use every special effect available on his camcorder, resulting in a lurid mess. A decent idea ends up chewed into pulp, then vomited out onto your screen.

Dir: Regan Redding
Star: Brenna Roth, Sara Plotkin, Sarah French, Rose Gorlano

Kite (live action)

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“A two-dimensional adaptation of two-dimensional animation”

kite_ver3_xlgLoosely based on the notorious anime, this relocates things to South Africa, after a financial crash has turned everything into a giant slum, and human trafficking gangs operate with impunity. Sawa (Eisley) is on a mission, searching for the Emir, the leaders of one such network, whom she blames for the death of both her mother and policeman father. She’s helped, as she works her way up the chain of command, by her father’s colleague, Karl Aker (Jackson). He provides her with some literally whizz-bang equipment, in the form of bullets that explode a few seconds after they’ve embedded themselves in you, and also keeps her dosed with “Amp”, a drug that lets her forget all her killing, but at the cost, eventually, of also making her forget the parents for whom she is seeking revenge.  Throwing another spanner in the works is Oburi (McAuliffe), a young man Sawa encounters, who seems to want to help her, yet also knows more about her parents’ deaths than he initially lets on.

One wonders if this might have been better served under original director, David R. Ellis, who died in South Africa during pre-production – this would have re-united him with Jackson, since Ellis also directed Snakes on a Plane. Certainly, Jackson seems to be phoning his performance in – though better that, I suppose, than the yelling which characterizes many of his recent roles, and it’s still above the 100% forgettable McAuliffe. Ziman’s pedigree is… Well, almost non-existent, with Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema his sole directing credit in the dozen years before Kite. This feels largely like someone tried to make a Hit-Girl movie, but based on third-hand descriptions of the character. Though Christopher Tookey, the now-unemployed (hoorah!) critic who whined about Kick-Ass fetishizing paedophilia, would have had his head explode during the scene where Eisley (19 during filming, but playing way younger) grinds in her underwear on top of a middle-aged man. Watching it uncomfortably, I kept expecting Chris Hansen to come out of my kitchen and say, “Why don’t you have a seat over here?”

There are some moments of visual style, with good use of aerial cameras, and the action is decent to solid, being well-constructed and executed. If you’ve seen the clips we have previously posted, then you’ll understand why they chose to feature them, because it’s the stuff between the action which is the problem here. You’re always skating on thin ice when you’re using amnesia as a key plot point in your movie, especially when it’s the particularly cinematic form seen in this case, where memory inevitably returns at the most dramatically convenient moments. It has to be that way, because if Sawa remembered at any other time, the entire story would collapse in on itself, long before you reach the “surprise” revelation, which will still come as a shock to absolutely no-one. Eisley, whom you may recognize from Underworld: Awakening, does okay, but compared to, say, Chloe Moretz, makes almost no impression at all. Much the same is true of the film as a whole.

Dir: Ralph Ziman
Star: India Eisley, Samuel L. Jackson, Callan McAuliffe, Carl Beukes

KITE-6

Kick Ass Girls

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“Girls just wanna have… Boxing gyms?”

kickassgirls2Boo (Chow) owns a failing boxing gym, and largely survives only by catering to masochistic geeks, with fantasies of being beaten up by Lara Croft, etc. To try and recoup customers driven away by her abrasive style, she hires the bubbly Miu (Lo), as a replacement for childhood friend TT (Yu), with whom she broke up after a spat over a man. Just as Miu brokers a reconciliation, the trio get an unexpected job offer, to work in Indonesia as bodyguards for the mysterious Lady Zhuge (Tong). Except, they eventually discover, this was just a lure to bring them in as fresh meat for her all-female fight club, where they must battle to the death.

The intriguingly-named director is making her feature debut, having been an actress and screenwriter, after getting her start as a teenage DJ on Hong Kong radio. It’s certainly unusual to see this kind of film directed by a woman, but it seems to work, particularly in regard to the characters, who are rather more well-rounded than usual for the genre. GC also plays Zhuge’s Goth personal assistant, who may be the most endearing of the lot, and she nails the cliches of that group impeccably. The film can be divided into three sections. The first is mostly comedic; the second, after the women go to Indonesia, is the least successful, and appears to have strayed in from a chick flick; however, the third includes the bulk of the action, and is a satisfactorily crunchy finale.

There isn’t much of a character arc for anyone, and the interview used as a framing device is a mis-step, since it destroys any sense of suspense, over who will survive and what will be left of them. But I sense that suspense isn’t particularly what this is about; it’s rather concerned with light comedy, moderate martial arts, and lead actresses who generally look good doing whatever it is they’re doing. As such, even if these are undeniably low-hanging fruit, it succeeds admirably, and I’ll admit, I laughed more than I expected, especially in the early going. If this falls uncomfortably between about three different genres, and isn’t great at any of them, by no means is it horrible at them either, and I was more than adequately entertained.

Dir: Goo-Bi GC
Star: Chrissie Chow, Dada Lo, Hidy Yu, Chris Tong


Bonus: Behind the scenes footage

Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair, on its 10th anniversary

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“It’s mercy, compassion, and forgiveness I lack. Not rationality.”

Today marks the 10th anniversary for the release in the United States of Kill Bill, Volume 2, completing the saga of The Bride and her quest for vengeance over the man who stole her daugher, killed her husband at the altar and left her in a coma. In honour of this date, we watched the assembled compilation known as Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair. While this has never officially been released – despite regular claims by Quentin Tarantino that he was about to start work on it – the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles was allowed to show it in March and April 2011, its second public screening since the Cannes Film Festival of 2004 (there was one at the Alamo Drafthouse).

This helped lead to bootleg editions circulating through the usual sources online, where fans edited the previously-released versions together, to simulate Tarantino’s vision as closely as possible. Of course, these aren’t perfect, if QT’s claims of an extended anime sequence are to be believed. But I’m not inclined to wait around any longer – it’s entirely his own fault I still have not bought a copy of either film, even though they are certainly iconic in our genre. So, how does the combined version play? And a decade after the saga came to its bloody conclusion, does the story still hold up? [Note. This will be less a standard review than a series of feelings.  If you want a review, I refer you to the ones written at the time for Volume 1 and Volume 2.  I suppose I should also insert a spoiler warning for the rest of this piece. Though if anyone reading this hasn’t seen both films already, you pretty much deserve to be spoilered!]

killbill1In terms of content, there isn’t much alteration, with the only real change, a small but significant cut at the end of Volume 1. What’s removed, is Bill’s line, “Is she aware her daughter is still alive?” This means neither audience nor heroine know this, until she shows up at Bill’s house for the final confrontation. [I have to say, her daughter certainly doesn’t seem like a four-year old either.] Rather than substance, the biggest difference for me was stylistic: the overall balance seemed more even, as a single entity, than seen as two separate pieces months apart. Volume 2 seemed excessively talky on its own. While that’s still the case, it’s to a significantly lesser degree, being balanced directly by the first half, where The Bride engages in actions, not words. Indeed, the only person she kills in the second part is Bill, a sharp contrast to the pile of corpses left in her wake during its predecessor. His death still feels somewhat rushed, and it’s a shame the original ending – a swordfight between Bill and Beatrix, clad in her wedding dress, on the beach – couldn’t be filmed, because the production went over time.

My viewing of the film now is also altered, by having seen over the intervening decade, more of the movies which had influenced Quentin, in particular Lady Snowblood and Thriller: A Cruel Picture. I’ve not been a particular fan of this aspect of Tarantino’s work, since the whole City on Fire/Reservoir Dogs thing; I find it gets in the way of enjoying his films, if you’re frequently being reminded of other movies. This kind of homage still works better when it’s slid in more subtly, for example Vernita Green’s pseudonym for her new life being Jeanne Bell, likely a reference to the actress who was the star of the 70’s blaxploitation pic, T.N.T. Jackson. [And, of course, Green’s daughter is called Nikita…] I have to say, QT’s foot fetish seems a lot more blatant now than it did at the time. The most obvious case is when The Bride is trying to regain control of her toes in the back of the Pussy Wagon, but Sofie Fatale’s feet also come in for some attention. Again, perhaps subsequent knowledge plays into the viewing experience.

10 Favourite Lines from The Whole Bloody Affair

  • Vernita Green: Black Mamba. I shoulda been motherfuckin’ Black Mamba.
  • O-Ren Ishii: The price you pay for bringing up either my Chinese or American heritage as a negative is… I collect your fucking head. Just like this fucker here. Now, if any of you sons of bitches got anything else to say, now’s the fucking time!
  • The Bride: Those of you lucky enough to have your lives, take them with you. However, leave the limbs you’ve lost. They belong to me now.
  • The Bride: This is what you get for fucking around with Yakuzas! Go home to your mother!
  • The Bride: I want them all to know they’ll all soon be as dead as O-Ren.
  • Budd: That woman deserves her revenge and we deserve to die.
  • Pai Mei: What if your enemy is three inches in front of you, what do you do then? Curl into a ball? Or do you put your fist through him?
  • Elle Driver: I killed your master. And now I’m gonna kill you too, with your own sword, no less, which in the very immediate future, will become my sword.
  • The Bride: Before that strip turned blue, I would have jumped a motorcycle onto a speeding train… for you. But once that strip turned blue, I could no longer do any of those things. Not anymore. Because I was going to be a mother.
  • Bill: You’re not a bad person. You’re a terrific person. You’re my favorite person, but every once in a while, you can be a real cunt.

killbill2What hasn’t changed is the sheer, unadulterated awesomeness of the fights, as jaw-droppingly brutal and intense as they were ten years ago. Yuen Wo-Ping certainly cements his position as the most inventive and effective martial arts choreographer in history. Though this version has the entire House of Blue Leaves fight in colour, the arterial spray becomes so obviously excessive, as to reduce its overall impact. Much love must also now go to someone barely known at the time, now carving out her own niche: stuntwoman and Thurman double: Zoë Bell. Bonus fun is now had, watching the battles and going, “Zoë… Zoë… Uma… Zoë… Uma… Zoë.” [That’s probably fairly close to the correct ratio!] The anime sequence depicting O-Ren Ishii’s early years is still fabulous and lush, revenge foreshadowing The Bride’s. You can see why, in 2006, Tarantino floated the idea of further films in a similar style, telling of Bill’s and Beatrix’s origins. Although, like all the other Kill Bill sequels he has floated over the years, Quentin’s mouth appears to be moving much faster than any actual production.

The combined version does probably run about 30 minutes too long, with Volume 2 in particular need of tightening up. It doesn’t so much reach a climax, as approach it as a limit. Bill’s burbling on about comic-book superheroes is one of those cases where Tarantino’s voice becomes louder than that of his characters (see the first half of Death Proof for a long, drawn-out example of this, perhaps the most self-indulgent dialogue in a filmography largely driven by self-indulgent dialogue). I also remain somewhat skeptical in regard to the deliberate misorder of Beatrix’s revenge. O-Ren Ishii is the first actually killed, according to The Bride’s list, yet we begin with her encountering Vernita Green. While that made some sense when the film was in two volumes, providing a spectacular encounter to end the first half, that’s less the case here. I’ve never found a satisfactory explanation for quite why Green wasn’t simply #1 on the list. But I guess, messing up the timeline is just what Tarantino does.

However, let’s cut to the chase – with the elegance of a pissed-off bride wielding a Hattori Hanzo sword. This remains one of the finest examples of action heroine cinema to come out of mainstream Hollywood, and arguably, hasn’t been matched in the ten years since. And it’s not purely for The Bride: O-Ren, Vernita, Elle and GoGo all deserve acknowledgement as memorable characters, any of whom could stand on their own. Even as someone who can generally take or leave most of Tarantino’s directorial work – I think he’s a better screenwriter – I can’t deny what he crafted here is an undeniable, four-hour classic of the genre.

“The lioness has rejoined her cub, and all is right in the jungle.”

Gallery: Volume 1

Gallery: Volume 2

Kite Liberator

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“Half a star deducted, for being only half a movie.”

KiteLiberatorAnd not a very good movie at that, suffering from such multiple personality disorder, it sometimes feels that two completely different anime were spliced together in some mad scientist’s laboratory. If so, he clearly got bored and drifted off while the project was half complete, because this ends in a way which doesn’t so much suggest another part, as demand it unconditionally. Six years on, that still hasn’t materialized, making this about as appetizing as a half-cooked chicken. Oh, and speaking of mad scientists, there’s one of those in here too.

We’re a decade on from the events of the original Kite, and it seems Sawa has – without explanation – morphed into Monaka (Inoue). In between tracking down and killing paedophiles, she has a regular identity as a klutzy waitress at a cafe, where he co-worker Mukai (Okamura) protects her from the sleazy patrons. Monaka’s father is an astronaut, who has been in space for years. His space-station is visited by Kōichi Doi, a researcher investigating ways to preserve bone density in zero-G. However, it appears a combination of factors such as radiation, results in the astronauts mutating into monstrous creatures. After a firefight, Doi and his team bail out as the station disintegrataes, but the monster that Monaka’s father has become, is also on their craft, which crash-lands – conveniently right in her neighbourhood. A cover-up ensues, despite a trail of corpses, and Monaka is given her next mission: to kill the monster, unaware that it’s actually her father.

Which is pretty much where it ends, after a first battle between Monaka and him. Really: WTF? On its own, this is such an entirely pointless release, you have to wonder what happened. Even up to that point, this is problematic in a bunch of way, not least that Monaka is almost a minor character, and it appears to be a sequel in little more than name. While I’m not normally one to criticize a film for a lack of sex, this also lacks the severely transgressive or original qualities which made the original infamous. This is mostly a monster mash, which we’ve seen any number of times before. There is some potential for a second half, but I doubt it will ever happen. This is like tearing a book in two, selling the first half and never publishing the rest. If I had actually paid any money for this, I would be righteously pissed.

Dir: Yasuomi Umetsu
Star (voice): Marina Inoue, Akemi Okamura, Masakazu Morita, Setsuji Satō