CULTURE WARTS: Whatever you think of Gregg Easterbrook, please do not allow his short-comings as a commentator, journalist or human being to get in the way of the compelling and important fact that Kill Bill is not a very good movie. As wise men have noticed over at Chez Earthling, all the aesthetic merit in the world will not save a movie if the basic emotional fuel it's running on "is the sort of forced, amoral angst you'll see in life-hating crap like American Beauty."
I think that's exactly what's wrong with Kill Bill: other than the flashback fiat of the injustice she is avenging, we have no reason to like the Uma Thurman protagonist. It's kind of fun watching her kick ass, and watching Tarantino play with ass-kicking genres, but beyond that Kill Bill just hangs there begging us to appreciate (or excuse) it for its film-school-cum-art-historical merit without giving us the first thing that any story (filmed, written, acted or lived) should provide: a connection with its characters sufficiently compelling to justify the attention we pay to their excesses, escapades, mistakes or shortcomings.
Reservoir Dogs passed this test. So did Pulp Fiction. And each added a glorious varnish of hard-boiled and pulp genre parody to a well thought-out story populated with characters passably and/or ingeniously suited to their uniquely stylized world. Jackie Brown was less easily pigeon-holed, and less of an aesthetic package, but perhaps more realistic than the prior work. Kill Bill, however, jumps into the void of its chosen aesthetic without the anchor of solid characters to bring the audience along. Better films do not make this mistake. Even when they're pure genre pieces presented simply because they're enjoyable as such, they should have more than a mere fig-leaf of human drama.
Among such better films, I would include American Beauty, to which Mr. Earthling ascribed the complaint I quote above. American Beauty was about the temptations of an extended or perpetual adolescence, something that American society pushes upon us at every turn. (Note that last link showed "Results 1-10 of about 5,060,000" as of 10pm Sunday night.) American Beauty is about the difference between willing superficiality and the actual ecstasies of innocence, the danger of confusing the two, and the way sins that the former might indulge as simple pleasure-taking can damage the very potential in our society for the experience --however fleeting-- of the latter. American Beauty is not amoral -- even if it is scary as hell and a little bit clumsy in the inexplicably-psycho homophobe nextdoor neighbor department. Rather, it is moral precisely because it is about America's struggle with amorality in this uncomfortably comfortable age.
(On this point, I think it's very funny to read these two Ebert reviews back to back.)
Kill Bill is not similarly motivated, useful or insightful. While I would not go so far as to say it was affirmatively offensive, no doubt others would. But if you're in that kind of mood, click here for a longer-winded and more tediously detailed discussion of morals and morality. Then, when you're bored with Bork and Hume, take advantage of this shameless but heartfelt product plug for a harmless and enlightened return to adolescence that won't make you second-guess or closely consider the settings on your moral compass, or tempt you to throw the dammed thing out entirely.