Monday, 25 July 2011

Forgotten Characters 4.3

Another week, another forgotten character to wax on about. Sometimes I think it’s not so much a character that’s forgotten as it is an actor who’s completely forgotten, so that any interesting character becomes something of collateral damage. It doesn’t help when you’re not a technically “big name” in a film where some big names are rubbing shoulders and I think that, perhaps, that’s what happens with

Lucy Liu in Kill Bill Vol. 1
as O-Ren Ishii

For the record, Kill Bill is my favourite Tarantino film – it’s an outrageous blend of disgusting gore and irreverent humour and it works, Uma Thurman is fabulous. But, my allegiances have never really been with the Bride, at least not for the first volume because I’ve always had a soft spot for Lucy Liu (who, I’ll maintain, was excellent in Charlie’s Angels). She plays O-Ren Ishii in Tarantino’s film, the first on the list. The introduction to O-Ren Ishii is my favourite of the lot. Liu is one of those actors who works well with expressions, the volume of her work here depends on emotion transferred not by words by her eyes and you don’t doubt the bio that the Bride gives her.

At a time when I knew the least about my enemies the first name on my death list O-Ren Ishii was easiest to find but, of course, when one manages the difficult task of becoming queen of the Tokyo underworld one doesn’t keep it a secret – does it?

The film is all about those quick moments that take you from the trite to the insaneand Liu has a sort of animalistic physicality so that imagining her as Queen of the underworld is believable even as you find it a bit comical as she moves from

 in a matter of minutes.

 It’s the run-up to her death that’s my favourite chapter. The Bride decapitates O-Ren’s army and, sure, it’s full of virtuoso and whatnot but it’s not the battle that gets me in that scene. It’s the part where The Bride realises that she might have underestimated her enemies. I love the banter between Uma and Lucy.

O-Ren: “You didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you?”

The Bride: “You know, for a second there, yeah I did.”

O-Ren: “Silly rabbit...”
O-Ren/The Bride: “...Tricks are for kids.”

It’s such a perfect moment, not only does it underscore the zaniness of Tarantino Lucy gets to be awesome – just a few moments before her death.  I remember back when everyone was ruminating on a potential candidate for Catwoman I said Lucy Liu was the best choice, and I stand by that claim. She's agile, she an do pity and she fights like an animal.And, she's photogenic...which can never hurt.

Yeah, sure, O-Ren is a psycho murderess and what not, but I still feel a bit bad when she gets killed by that Hattori Hanzo sword. And, she gets a killer final line.
That really was a Hattori Hanzo sword...

So, sure, The Bride is an iconic character and whatnot - O-Ren Ishii is worth remembering...right?


Yojimbo_5 said...

Not a fan of Kill Bill (either volume)—four hours of conflict to get a lection on Superman?—and this scene is emblematic of the problems ("Trix are for kids?" C'MON!)

But, Liu is a fine actress—I first noticed her as "Ling" ("with a hard L") on "Ally McBeal," and have always considered her under-utilized (even during her "hot" period). She needs a great role that's worthy of her contained, forceful talents (and comedy skills). Yeah, she would have rocked "Catwoman."

Castor said...

Always liked Lucy Liu as an actress even though she mostly gets very little to work with. Her sequence is definitely the highlight of the entire Kill Bill series IMO

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

yojimboit's so odd that you say you suggest one of the reasons I DON'T like tarantino generally. kill bill is imperfect, but the silliness of it all works for it more than i think it does in his other films.

castor i wholly agree. i really wished they'd kept her on for part 2.

W.R. said...

Another performance I'm a bit in love with. My own little theory is that, aside from Bill, O-Ren was the one The Bride was closest to.

I think Lucy Liu's finest moments ever on film are during their final confrontation. "For ridiculing you earlier, I apologize." "Come on."