When you take a part in a Quentin Tarantino movie, you take the chance your character will meet a blood-soaked end that'll frighten the most hardened movie-goer. But Lucy Liu says she's ready.
"I understand Quentin Tarantino's mentality and his creative being," Liu told Good Morning America Monday as the film heads toward release Friday.
"The blood and all that is so over the top that it's not meant to be taken seriously."
Liu plays Japan's top crime boss in Kill Bill - Vol. 1, Tarantino's twist on the kung fu genre, his first film after six years conspicuously out of the spotlight.
In the early 1990s, Tarantino was Hollywood's biggest success story, a former video store clerk who became the town's most talked about director after the groundbreaking success of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.
But Tarantino's last film, Jackie Brown, a modest box office success in 1997, languished in the shadows of his past success. And reports emerged that the man once hailed as Hollywood's future had been struggling with writer's block and looking for a new direction.
Now that's about to end, and in a big way, as Tarantino gambles on a kung fu comeback that might be gory enough to rightfully be called Overkill Bill.
But if Tarantino still has a pulse on contemporary audiences, the 40-year-old director stands to reassert his standing as one of America's most daring filmmakers.
Can Old Reservoir Dogs Learn New Tricks?
In Kill Bill, Tarantino brings back a familiar face from Pulp Fiction, but in a most unlikely casting choice.
Uma Thurman played a drug-addled moll in Pulp Fiction, and audiences best remember her sexy dance with John Travolta.
In the new movie, she's a pregnant, Samurai-trained bride who's bent on revenge, after the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad slaughters her entire wedding party.
Thurman's character, once a member of the Deadly Vipers herself (code name: Black Mamba), wakes from a four-year coma immediately fighting for her life in action sequences that make Reservoir Dogs look like puppy love.
Tarantino is hoping audiences will indulge his deliberate excesses in the plot, and that they'll share his lifelong love of such martial arts classics as Five Fingers of Death and Master of the Flying Guillotine.
"If I'm going to do a genre, I'm never going to play exactly by the rules. I'm going to do my own crazy Quentin version of that genre," the director told ABCNEWS' Primetime last month.
"I'm really making the movies that I've always wanted to see, but never have seen for one reason or another."
Tarantino’s Two-Part Gamble
Tarantino has earned the privilege of working by his own rules — and at his own pace. After the long layoff, steeping himself in the 1970s-era martial arts flicks of his childhood, he produced a script that was divided into two movies.
We won't know whether Thurman's character really kills Bill until Kill Bill - Vol. Two, set for release in late February.
The two-part film is a tremendous gamble, especially after Jackie Brown. But advance word on the movie is already positive, with The Hollywood Reporter calling the film "hugely watchable" and the fight scenes "jaw-droppingly kinetic."
The biggest question of Kill Bill might be how Tarantino's humor and pop culture references fly with contemporary audiences. Who could forget John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson pontificating on the Big Mac in 1994's Pulp Fiction, as the two gangsters homed in on their next hit?
"He changed the direction of American cinema, for sure," Travolta told Primetime. "When I did it, I thought it was interesting. But when I saw it, I thought it was fascinating." Silly Rabbit, Comebacks Are for Kids
Pulp Fiction took top honors at the Cannes Film Festivel, revived Travolta's career, and earned Tarantino an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Made for a mere $8 million, it went on to gross $212 million internationally, and is widely held as one of the most influential films of the decade.
"The problem was, he didn't make Pulp Fiction II, he made Jackie Brown," said Jackson.
The 1997 film was an homage to blaxploitation films of the early 1970s. It starred 47-year-old Pam Grier, who was an action star of Foxy Brown and other classics that inspired Tarantino, but might not be too familiar with movie audiences.
"Jackie Brown was a great movie," Jackson says. "It's just not a movie for the 18- to 25-year-old crowd. It's a movie for older people, because it's about patience."
But in Kill Bill Tarantino once again peppers dialogue with his twisted takes on popular culture, as he did so successfully in Pulp Fiction.
In one moment, Liu's character (code name: O-Ren Ishii) consolidates her power by slicing up a rival gangster. "That's the price you pay for bringing up either my Chinese or American heritage as a negative," she calmly tells her colleagues. "I collect your freakin' head!"
Then when O-Ren Ishii and Black Mamba finally square off, they quote lines to each other from a cereal commercial, "Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids."
Liu, who recently appeared in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, thinks audiences won't mind blood, guts and a reminder of what they may have had for breakfast all at once, because Tarantino once again finds the comic irony that made him so popular.
"You get a little taste of everything that he loves," Liu said. "So the movie pays homage to, you know, Westerns and samurai movies and Chinese kung fu movies. And, that's kind of a great thing to be a part of, you know?"