Ordell Robbie: AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitutes.
Tarantino has a musicality to his best dialogue, and Samuel L. Jackson has an unparalleled ability to bring that music out. He doesn’t just say Tarantino’s lines; he sings them. And in his hands, this line from Jackie Brown is practically the Hallelujah Chorus. Savor it.
Ordell Robbie: You can’t trust Melanie, but you can trust Melanie to be Melanie.
We all have friends like this. And if you don’t, then you’re the friend.
Jackie Brown: Well, I’ve flown seven million miles. And I’ve been waiting on people almost 20 years. The best job I could get after my bust was Cabo Air, which is the worst job you can get in this industry. I make about 16,000, with retirement benefits that ain’t worth a damn. And now with this arrest hanging over my head, I’m scared. If I lose my job, I gotta start all over again, but I got nothing to start over with. I’ll be stuck with whatever I can get. And that shit is scarier than Ordell.
Jackie Brown’s economic anxiety is the only acceptable economic anxiety. Next quote.
Ordell Robbie: Now that there is the Tec-9, a crappy spray gun from South Miami. This gun is advertised as the most popular gun in American crime. Do you believe that shit? It actually says that in the little book that comes with it: the most popular gun in American crime. Like they’re actually proud of that shit.
Sadly, Ordell, yes. We believe it.
Max Cherry: Now you want me to speculate on what you do. My guess is you’re in the drug business, except the money’s moving the wrong way. Whatever you’re into, you seem to be getting away with it, so more power to you.
In one line, Max Cherry adroitly sums up Ordell’s predicament and then offers a sprig of the weary cynicism that makes him such a fascinating character. Robert Forster knocks this performance out of the park and into the next county, but that spot-on combo of Tarantino and Elmore Leonard means that the pitch was just begging to be crushed.
Jackie Brown: …the money won’t convict him, guns will.
Max Cherry: You’re rationalizing.
Jackie Brown: Well that’s what you do to go through with the shit you start, you rationalize.
Jackie Brown is a low-key survivalist epic, with Pam Grier’s Brown marshaling every ounce of wit and determination to ensure she doesn’t get sent down river. This line perfectly captures that dynamic: The shit’s been started; now it’s all about getting through to the other side. It’s Tarantino’s version of Shawshank Redemption’s “crawled through 500 yards of shit and came out clean the other end,” only this line offers the view from 250 yards in.
The Bride: It was not my intention to do this in front of you. For that I’m sorry. But you can take my word for it; your mother had it comin’. When you grow up, if you still feel raw about it, I’ll be waiting.
The most interesting thing in Kill Bill isn’t all the ultraviolence, it’s the odd codes of honor that pass between the many mortal enemies as duel to end each other’s lives. This line sums that up pretty much perfectly. The Bride did what she had to do. She doesn’t regret that. And if the girl grows up and feels a similar way to her, The Bride accepts that. She’ll defend herself, of course, but what she won’t do is hold any grudges against her for it.
The Bride: No, no, no, no, no. No, to get even, even-Steven … I would have to kill you … go up to Nikki’s room, kill her … then wait for your husband, the good Dr. Bell, to come home and kill him. That would be even, Vernita. That’d be about square.
The Bride is not to be fucked with. That’s what Kill Bill is basically about. They fucked with her and — to quote another feisty film heroine — that was a big mistake. Huge.
Hattori Hanzo: [in Japanese; subtitled] I am finished doing what I swore an oath to God 28 years ago to never do again. I’ve created “something that kills people.” And in that purpose, I was a success. I’ve done this because, philosophically, I am sympathetic to your aim. I can tell you with no ego, this is my finest sword. If on your journey, you should encounter God, God will be cut.
“If on your journey, you should encounter God, God will be cut.” That is one of the most badass things that has ever been captured on celluloid. Try peppering that line into your daily rounds and see how people react. Depending on how you use it, they will either be extremely motivated or extremely freaked out. Choose wisely.
O-Ren Ishii: So you all will know the seriousness of my warning, I shall say this in English. [in English] As your leader, I encourage you from time to time, and always in a respectful manner, to question my logic. If you’re unconvinced that a particular plan of action I’ve decided is the wisest, tell me so, but allow me to convince you and I promise you right here and now, no subject will ever be taboo. Except, of course, the subject that was just under discussion. The price you pay for bringing up either my Chinese or American heritage as a negative is … I collect your fucking head. Just like this fucker here. Now, if any of you sons of bitches got anything else to say, now’s the fucking time! [pause] I didn’t think so.[calmly, in Japanese] Gentlemen, this meeting is adjourned.
Kill Bill might be a revenge story, but it doesn’t deny sympathy or affection for The Bride’s victims. With the exception of Bill, O-Ren Ishii is The Bride’s most fully-realized target, a woman with her traumas, goals, and moral codes. Her Anime-style origin story is its own short film dropped into the middle of this two-part epic. If that story were expanded to encompass its own film, this would be her big 9 to 5 moment — albeit one that revolves around an impromptu decapitation. Here, it’s just one exquisite square in a much larger, equally violent tapestry.
Bill: Y’all beat the hell out of that woman, but you didn’t kill her. And I put a bullet in her head, but her heart just kept on beatin’. Now, you saw that yourself with your own beautiful blue eye, did you not? We’ve done a lot of things to this lady. And if she ever wakes up, we’ll do a whole lot more. But one thing we won’t do is sneak into her room in the night like a filthy rat and kill her in her sleep. And the reason we won’t do that thing is because … that thing would lower us. Don’t you agree, Miss Driver?
Honor among thieves raises its head again. Slicing people’s heads off is one thing, but killing them in their sleep would “lower” them. The rules and rationalizations that bad, violent people make for themselves is a fascinating theme — one that’s exploded in popularity with the TV antihero boom. But before Walter White, there was Quentin Tarantino.
The Bride: [in Japanese] Those of you lucky enough to have your lives, take them with you. However, leave the limbs you’ve lost. They belong to me now. [in English] Except you, Sofie! You stay right where you are!
“Leave the limbs you’ve lost. They belong to me now.” This is another phrase that you should try working into your daily routine. To the victor go the spoils … and the severed arms.
Budd: That woman, deserves her revenge and … we deserve to die. But then again, so does she. So, I guess we’ll just see. Won’t we?
Michael Madsen is far from the greatest actor in the Tarantino repertory company, but he’s got a knack for delivering — and usually underplaying — lines like this one. The moral landscape of the Kill Bill universe in a single sentence.
Bill: I suppose the traditional way to conclude this is we cross Hanzo swords. Well, it just so happens, this hacienda comes with its very own private beach. And this private beach just so happens to look particularly beautiful bathed in moonlight. And there just so happens to be a full moon out tonight. So, swordfighter, if you want to sword fight, that’s where I suggest. But if you wanna be old school about it — and you know I’m all about old school — then we can wait till dawn and slice each other up at sunrise, like a couple real-life, honest-to-goodness samurais.
Tarantino characters are always aware of the genres they inhabit. They know the tropes, and they usually aspire to live up to them. After all, if you’re living in a kung-fu flick, what else are you going to do? Bill gives The Bride the option of how they’re going to bring this movie to a climax. What he doesn’t know, of course, is there’s a third option. One that breaks from narrative convention. He who sees the plot twist coming last, dies first.