If Stuntman Mike had hallucinated while getting beaten to a pulp in the final moments of “Death Proof,” his gleefully nihilistic fantasy may not have looked all that different from John C. Waller’s “Raze,” a bruised and battered thriller featuring Mike’s former prey, Zoe Bell and Tracie Thoms. They’re among a group of hapless female victims forced into fighting to the death with their bare hands for the sake of upper-class entertainment, as well as some female empowerment mumbo jumbo spouted by Doug Jones (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) and Sherilyn Fenn (“Twin Peaks”). Bell also served as co-producer and will join Waller in the Windy City for two “Raze” screenings at the Chicago International Film Festival.
From doubling for Lucy Lawless on “Xena: Warrior Princess” to performing stunts in “Iron Man 3,” Bell has garnered a formidable reputation as one of Hollywood’s preeminent stuntwomen. Yet perhaps her most impressive feat to date was her role as Uma Thurman’s stunt double in both volumes of Quentin Tarantino’s exuberantly entertaining revenge epic, “Kill Bill.” “Vol. 1” was the first Tarantino film I ever saw, and I credit it as one of the key moviegoing experiences of my life. In anticipation of that film’s tenth anniversary (on October 10th), Indie Outlook has ranked all ten chapters of “Kill Bill,” highlighting the best and bloodiest moments of the killer double bill.
10) Chapter Three: The Origin of O-Ren
Interesting that the most sickeningly violent—and most deeply unsettling—segment of the series also happens to be the only one that’s animated. Detailing the horrific backstory of villainess O-Ren Ishii, it brings surprising pathos to her climactic duel with The Bride, illustrating that they are both wronged women burned by tragedy. Since much of “Kill Bill” is humorous in tone, this gruesomely tragic opus is as tonally jarring as it is galvanizing.
Killer Song: The Grand Duel: (Parte Prima) by Luis E. Bacalov
9) Chapter Six: Massacre at Two Pines
The quietest, most uneventful passage of “Kill Bill” provides a clear indicator for audiences that “Vol. 2” will be dramatically different from “Vol. 1”—favoring character development and dialogue-driven set-pieces over pure spectacle. Though Tarantino’s dialogue is occasionally stilted and overwrought, David Carradine injects it with a hypnotic mixture of aching tenderness and simmering menace. The final reveal, though inevitable, is a punch to the gut.
Killer Song: “Il Tramonto” by Ennio Morricone
8) Chapter One: (2)
Speaking of punches, this tightly edited, expertly choreographed piece of madness is bursting with them, as The Bride and Vernita Green trade fists and quips while somehow attempting to maintain a façade of suburban banality for the little tyke fresh home from school. This vignette provides the only loose thread for which a potential “Vol. 3” would be justified, though its title would have to be changed to “Kill B—x.”
Killer Song: “Ironside” by Quincy Jones
7) Chapter Seven: The lonely grave of Paula Schultz
What starts out as one of the sleepier segments, marked by Budd’s deadpan humiliation at the hands of his boss (a very funny Larry Bishop), takes a whiplash-inducing turn as The Bride finds deceptively simple vengeance brutally ripped from her grasp. When she’s buried alive, the camera stays with her as mounds of dirt come crashing upon the coffin, while flickers of her terror are briefly illuminated courtesy of a flashlight beam. Brilliantly chilling.
Killer Song: “A Satisfied Mind” by Johnny Cash
6) Chapter Two: The blood-spattered BRIDE
It’s hard to decide which moment of this chapter is my favorite. Perhaps it’s Tarantino’s uproarious nod to De Palma-esque split-screen or the excruciatingly visceral moment when The Bride is forced to pull herself up onto a car seat, while willing her “limbs out of entropy.” Yet it’s Thurman’s devastating scream—upon the realization of her fate—that provides the emotional fuel for every successive scene, while instantly earning the audience’s unwavering sympathy.
Killer Song: “Twisted Nerve” by Bernard Herrmann
5) Last Chapter: Face to Face
Since many viewers were expecting “Vol. 2” to top the epic body count set by “Vol. 1,” culminating in some sort of spectacular showdown, Tarantino’s startlingly sentimental, delicately nuanced finale was widely deemed a disappointment. But it also happens to be sublimely acted, splendidly taut and genuinely touching, enabling the two leads to transcend genre archetypes and emerge as complex, resonant characters. Plus, The Bride’s flashback is a masterpiece unto itself.
Killer Song: “Summertime Killer” (naturally) by Luis E. Bacalov
4) Chapter Four: The MAN From OKINOWA
After portraying legendary samurai Hattori Hanzo in a host of pictures (much loved by QT), Sonny Chiba reprises his signature role in this marvelous sequence. Placed after the oppressively grim Chapter Three, it brightens the mood considerably—including perhaps the biggest laugh of the whole series “…do you undah-stand?”—but also has elegance and beauty to spare, particularly when Hanzo presents the “yellow-haired warrior” with a custom-made sword.
Killer Song: “The Lonely Shepherd” by Gheorghe Zamfir
3) Chapter Nine: ELLE and I
Though its opening minutes are wordy and dragged-out to a fault, this much-hyped chapter blossoms into an exhilarating joyride. Elle Driver savoring every last word of her Black Mamba trivia is a joy to behold, as is her astonishingly funny and adrenaline-pumping battle with The Bride. My favorite moment, by far, is when Elle leaps in the air with her leg stretched to kill, and The Bride simply grabs her leg and hurls her through Budd’s wall. Fabulous.
Killer Song: “A Silhouette of Doom” by Ennio Morricone
2) Chapter Five: Showdown at House of Blue Leaves
When I first saw “Kill Bill,” I had no idea what to make of it until this chapter, which begins with O-Ren lopping off a guy’s head, unleashing a full-blown, crimson sprinkler system. Suddenly, I found myself laughing. I finally understood the appeal of Tarantino’s self-aware wit. What follows after that is cinematic ecstasy of a very rare breed. Magnificent fight choreography, swirling cinematography and the inimitable charm of The 126.96.36.199’s.
Killer Song: “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” by Tomoyasu Hotei
1) Chapter Eight: The Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei
As The Bride lies six feet beneath the ground, her mind drifts to a memory of happier times, as Bill acquaints her with Pai Mei (scenery-devouring Chia-Hui Liu), a fierce Kung Fu master whose brand of training is rather grueling, to say the least. The series reaches its emotional highpoint as The Bride utilizes the skills she learned from Pai Mei to break out of her entrapment. It’s not only my favorite moment in “Kill Bill,” it may very well be my favorite scene of Tarantino’s entire career.
Killer Song: “L’Arena” by Ennio Morricone
“Raze” screens October 12th and October 13th at the Chicago International Film Festival, with Zoe Bell and director Josh C. Waller scheduled to attend. For tickets and other festival info, click here.