Tarantino presents a superb fusion of East and West, Leone and Coppella meet Kurosawa and Fukasaku. Of course, the traditions have been borrowing from each other continuously, but Tarantino now fuses them into a bloody and stylish film. It's a homage to just about every spaghetti western and Japanese and Hong-Kong B-movie from the past 30 years. There's a fair amount of anime in there too, and
The rhythm of the film is breathtaking. I now think that is what the recent Western action films have lacked. From the smallest detail of a thug swinging a chain in perfect time to the beat, through the ebb and flow of the fight sequences, to the pacing of the whole film, there's a sense that nothing happens out of place. The fights aren't prolonged to show more action, every scene takes as long as it needs and no longer.
The narrative structure is familiar Tarantino, from Reservoir Dogs on, start at the end, switch back to the beginning and work your way back the where you started filling in gaps as required.
There are some truly beautiful bits of direction and cinematography here. The camera work in the “House of the Blue Leaves” before the fight starts is breathtaking. I'm sure there's some trickery going on in the fast pans, but none the less, it looks stunning. The use of colour throughout is very nice too, the contrast of bright primary colours against monochrome and dark tones. The attention to detail is also wonderful, for example the careful display of the hamon on the Bride's katana. The setting of the chaotic and brutal fight on a glass floor above a karesansui is a wonderful contrast.
Flaws? Lucy Liu for one, she's outshone in this film, she isn't bad, she's just not excellent. The final show-down is somewhat disappointing after the body of the film. It's still an action film, the characterisaton is fairly shallow, the dialogue weak and the plot straightforward (so far); but for once that didn't bore me because it was done well. Beyond that though, there's little to complain about. It is brutally violent, but so stylised it's not nasty; limbs fly off, fountains of arterial blood cover everything, but it isn't real, it looks more like an anime than live-action. It comes off as a necessary part of the work, not gratuitous gore.
Overall, a brilliant film that I'd like to watch again. For one thing there's the usual Tarantino host of references and unresolved questions, why does the sheriff have an earring? Who owned the other samurai sword on the 'plane (swords openly carried on aircraft, classic Tarantino joke there). I haven't seen nearly enough Japanese and Hong-Kong B-movies to spot the host of nods that must be there. The soundtrack is also very worthwhile, matching the action very well.