There isn't all that much to the story. All we know is that a female assassin (Uma Thurman) is attacked on her wedding day by her group's posse and leader "Bill (David Carradine)." Everyone is brutally slain and Thurman's character is left in a coma. Four years later, she awakens. Revenge seems to be the only thing on her mind. That, and getting to move her big toe - which is in post-coma trauma.

It's difficult for me to say whether this film is a masterpiece or a failed attempt at one. All I can say about KILL BILL: Volume 1 is that it is a true representation of what the medium of film is capable of. The film embodies mindless violence, action, suffering, pain, sex, darkness, but also comedy, stunning visuals, home truths, moral questions and even kindness, all in the same film. And the experience that each audience member will take away will be different.

Some people will walk out of the theatre in disgust. Others will stay until the credits stop rolling and proclaim Quentin Tarantino, an ex-video clerk, as the film G-d that he clearly wants to be. A number of audience members will actually have a good time, laugh a lot, cheer, holler and enjoy the good old' "ass kicking." And quite a few, I suspect, will remain confused. Captured by the flashes of brilliance as presented on the screen, but confused nonetheless.

The question is: What is Kill Bill? Perhaps I am lacking in intelligence, but I cannot quite grasp the floating picture. No doubt countless aspiring critics will interject and remind me that I have yet to see Volume 2 which will no doubt bring it all to an awesome conclusion, but I will venture on as to remind them that when two movies are broken up and are charged admission as two separate films, I will judge them based on those terms.

So Kill Bill, Volume 1, as it stands is unfulfilled. It is certainly a grand and highly stylized vision with plenty of reverences being paid to plenty of genres and genre originators, but it somehow feels too much of that and too little of a wholesome piece of cinema. It is too undefined, too uncertain of where it wants to take us. This doesn't necessarily make it a dreadful film or experience, however.

And luckily, despite some extreme toying with bleak visions, endless gore, fights, and other various brutal figments one aspect remains consistent throughout this surface viciousness and throughout Tarantino's various films: decency. In all of his films, despite the apparent cruelties that his characters perform, there is that occasional glimmer of hope that the characters offer that suggests that their souls are not entirely lost. Not yet anyhow.

In one scene at the initiation of the film Uma Thurman's character, The Bride, is fighting with Vivica A. Fox's character and despite her terrifying desire to murder this woman (for fairly understandable reasons as we come to understand) she does not want to do this in front of the woman's child. Glimpses like this, along with wonderful characters, performances (speaking of which, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine and especially Thurman all give outstanding performances) and fascinating cinematography is what makes Kill Bill such an interesting film to behold. And just to set the mood, the film takes off to the sound of Nancy Sinatra's "Bang- Bang."

But while I mention the flaws and virtues of Kill Bill, this review only serves as a reflection of after-viewing thoughts gathered here in the format of prose. Whether this film is a masterpiece is up the each individual audience member's discretion because this is very much the sort of film that leaves it up to the audience to decipher.

So this review, very much like the movie itself, leaves off on a cliffhanger. Campy, ain't it? Till Volume 2...

Got a comment? E-mail Katherine at: [email protected] -- Hate mail is always welcome!

Kill Bill Vol. 1 is out October 10, 2003.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Movieweb.