Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2003, Tarantino called “Kill Bill,” “[His] first action movie.” Here’s where we make an important distinction between violence and action; Tarantino’s films always had the former, but not the latter. When guns are fired in “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction,” it always happens in short bursts. The violence and bloodshed aren’t meant to look especially cool, at least compared to the sword fights in “Kill Bill.” The closest thing to action in the former two movies is the chase scene in “Reservoir Dogs” when Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) flees the police. “Jackie Brown,” on the other hand, has no action and little violence, which helps explain why Tarantino swung hard in the opposite direction for his next film.
Tarantino explained why he went to action to buff up his filmmaking bona fides. As he put it:
“I’ve always adored action filmmakers. And those are actually what I consider the real cinematic directors. And so if I’m going to throw my hat in that ring, I want to be one of the best that ever lived. I don’t want to do an OK job. I want to rock everybody’s f***ing world.”
Tarantino is also a known aficionado of Southeast Asian cinema. When listing his favorite movies from 1992 to 2009, he included Japanese action films such as “Battle Royale” and “The Blade.” He recruited Sonny Chiba, a Japanese martial artist and genre star, to cameo in “Kill Bill.” The finale of “Kill Bill Volume 1,” where the Bride (Uma Thurman) and O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) duel in the snow, resembles “Lady Snowblood.” With these influences, it makes sense that when Tarantino set out to make an action movie, he wound up making a samurai movie.