When discussing cinema, few directors are in the same elite tier as Quentin Tarantino. While many aspects of Tarantino's films are worth highlighting, his characters are his bread and butter. Whether you’re talking about Vincent Vega, Jules Winnfield, Hans Landa, or Mr. Blonde, there are too many characters to remember.
One of my favorites of Tarantino, Kill Bill, arguably features his most potent antagonists, and the roadblocks that come up against The Bride make for such an impactful film. Nevertheless, let’s discuss the film's antagonists and what you can learn from it writing-wise. As you can imagine, if you’re an aspiring filmmaker, Tarantino is the perfect director and writer to analyze.
Still from 'Kill Bill'. Photo credit: Deadline
Bill is the central antagonist in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill volumes 1 and 2. He is a formidable underworld kingpin who once led the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, which included his younger brother, Budd. Bill's ex-lover, Beatrix Kiddo, known as "The Bride" during her time as his protege, is his ultimate nemesis.
Believing he had killed Beatrix in a massacre that claimed her husband's life and seemingly caused her unborn child's death (later revealed to be false), Bill becomes the target of Beatrix's relentless quest for vengeance.
At first glance, Bill appears stoic, concealing his emotions and motives from everyone. In the initial film, he remains mostly a voice in the shadows, responding to challenges with cold and calculated resolve. Even when expressing remorse over Sophie's mutilation, his words come across as eerily subdued.
However, in Vol. 2, a more human side of Bill emerges, particularly in his interactions with Beatrix. It’s a reminder to have more depth to your antagonists than what meets the eye. During a fireside conversation, he captivates her with the story of Pai Mei and sincerely warns her about angering the cantankerous old master. When they reunite in El Paso, he conceals his grief and anger at Beatrix's sudden disappearance, never raising his voice and maintaining a cheerful facade when meeting Tommy.
Despite eventually ordering a wedding massacre, he hides his emotions, attempting to part ways with Beatrix on a seemingly friendly note, even as he shoots her. Bill's complex relationship with Budd is also evident when Beatrix discovers a poignant engraving on Budd's Hattori Hanzō sword, which reads: "To my brother Budd, the only man I ever loved - Bill."
Nevertheless, Bill, like his squad of assassins, remains morally compromised and responsible for the deaths of many innocent people. He exhibits no hesitation in targeting a pregnant Beatrix and everyone at her wedding, leading to Hattori Hanzo's dishonor and vow never to craft another sword.
As the story progresses, Bill's facade begins to crumble. While initially friendly with Beatrix, his composed exterior shatters when she reveals why she left him. Bill confesses the depths of grief and rage he experienced due to her abandonment. Ultimately, he accepts his impending demise gracefully, admitting his enduring love for Beatrix despite her imperfections before taking the final steps toward his fate.
Deadly Viper Assassination Squad
Kill Bill features the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, known by their alias "DeVAS," as the primary antagonists. This elite group of assassins is under the leadership of the notorious gangland boss Bill. Bill orders them to assassinate The Bride.
Initially, it appears that they have successfully carried out this mission. However, when The Bride resurfaces, she is determined to exact revenge on Bill and the other members of DeVAS, which includes Bill's brother, Budd, as well as the Yakuza queenpin O-Ren Ishii, retired assassin Vernita Green, and contract killer Elle Driver.
Redemption and Loss
While many spectators have undoubtedly viewed Kill Bill as a narrative centered on vengeance and redemption, when considered in its entirety, the tale of the Bride (played by Uma Thurman) and her relentless pursuit of revenge unfolds as a somewhat unexpectedly bittersweet narrative that, in its unique manner, explores themes of redemption and accountability.
Furthermore, it touches on loss, specifically with the El Paso incident and how it’s initially presented in fragments until the second volume, where an extended flashback provides clarity. It becomes evident that the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DVAS) carried out a massacre in a church as retribution for Beatrix Kiddo's departure. Interestingly, this event appears to mark the DVAS's final collective action before they quickly dispersed, each member grappling with the aftermath individually.
The man behind Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino, skillfully employs various cinematic techniques to weave a theme of revenge. As stated, the story revolves around The Bride throughout the first film.
After enduring a brutal assault by her former employer and lover, she languishes in a coma for four years. Upon awakening, she learns of the presumed death of her unborn child at the time of the attack. This revelation fuels her unyielding desire for vengeance against Bill, the child's father, and her determination to eliminate all her treacherous assassin comrades who had betrayed her.