Joel Siegel Movie Reviews

Oct. 10, 2003 -- Now in theaters: Kill Bill — Vol. 1, Mystic River and Intolerable Cruelty.

Kill Bill — Vol. 1Here's the deal: Kill Bill was supposed to be one movie. But when they started putting it together they knew it was way too long. So they cut the movie in half — and, coincidentally, that's what happens to most of the actors.

Quentin Tarantino, whose Pulp Fiction is a great film, has made what is technically a terrific film. It looks great, fans will love it, the sound alone deserves an Oscar. I think Tarantino is a genius. But I'm not sure I want to be alone in a room with him.

Uma Thurman is a member the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. When she comes out of a four-year coma, she seeks revenge — a dish Director Tarantino believes is best served with ketchup. Lots of ketchup. Kill Bill is the bloodiest, most violent film I have ever seen. The violence is so over-the-top, so super-operatic it becomes cartoonish and borders on funny. But is that what Tarantino wants?

I think it is, because there is no story, no characters, and we never know who Bill is, or why these people are trying to kill each other. There's no way to tell if this film is a satire on violence or a celebration of violence. But we won't know what Tarantino is ultimately aiming for until we see more.

I can't pass judgment on half a film any more than I could review a playif I'd only been allowed to see the first act, or review a book if I were only allowed to read every other page. Kill Bill — Vol. 2 is scheduled to open February 20 — check with me then. Grade: Incomplete.

Mystic River

Mystic River is the story of three Boston boys, one of whom is abducted by child abusers, a crime that he relives again and again, every day for the rest of his life.

Tim Robbins plays the boy all grown up — his chest caved, his head down, his heart broken, his soul forever scarred. This is what happens to victims of real-life violence. This is why Mystic River, the first great film of 2003, makes it especially difficult to deal with the numbing movie violence in Kill Bill.

Late one night Robbins comes home to his wife, played by Marcia Gay Hardin, with bloody hands and no excuse. The same night, it turns out, Sean Penn's daughter is brutally murdered. The third of the trio, Kevin Bacon, is a cop.

Add Bacon's partner, Lawrence Fishburne, and his wife Laura Linney and you have six of the finest actors of their generation — and director Clint Eastwood lets them act.

Eastwood tells the story simply, barely moving the camera. The only special effect in this film is genius. Grade: A

Intolerable Cruelty

I think the toughest film genre is screwball comedy. Off the top of my head I can only think of five truly great screwball comedies. Intolerable Cruelty makes it six. It's that good. Also that funny.

George Clooney is L.A.'s most successful divorce attorney. Catherine Zeta-Jones is suing her husband for divorce. She doesn't get a nickel because Clooney's her husband's lawyer. They fall in love anyway.

This is a classic screwball comedy made brand new, exactly the kind of movie Howard Hawks and Preston Sturges and Grant and Gable and Hepburn would be making today, with hysterical gags, slapstick moments, perfect timing, and dialogue so sharp it leaves teeth marks.

These stars not only light up the screen, they generate enough electricity to light up Times Square. Movies just don't get better. Clooney really is a 21st century Cary Grant and Catherine Zeta Jones is, of course, a 21st Century fox. Grade: A

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