Revenge may be a dish "best served cold," but it's not devoid of moral complication, either -- especially when moms get involved. Forces maternal and moral collided in the above scene from Kill Bill: Vol. 1, when The Bride (played by Uma Thurman) gets into something of a scuffle with Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox).
Vernita, it turns out, is the first name on The Bride's hit list, and after the scene's first few seconds, it looks as if she may be a quick-and-easy cross-off. Thurman's character wastes no time in getting down to business, attacking Vernita the moment their eyes meet, and setting in motion a brutally balletic fight sequence. Punches are thrown, kicks are absorbed, furniture is destroyed. "Whoosh" sound effects are doled out liberally. It's a beautifully executed Kung Fu-inspired duel that culminates in a classic standoff, with both women bloodied, beaten, and battered, facing each other with knives drawn and hearts racing.
And that's where things get interesting.
In a twist of tragicomedy that can only be described as Tarantinoan, a school bus casually pulls up to the curb outside Vernita's house. As the schoolchildren squeals grow louder, the two combatants steal glances out the window, where Vernita's daughter can be seen approaching the front door. No words are exchanged, but both women acknowledge the intrusion, and the complication it presents. Neither woman wants to put down her weapon; neither woman wants to kill the other in front of a child.
The situation is almost comedic in structure, but it's rife with tension. Vernita and The Bride know that they're crunched for time, with the daughter fast approaching, and Tarantino takes full advantage, stretching the stalemate out until the last possible second. Finally, the camera zooms in on Vernita's face -- a plaintive blend of fear and apprehension, silently pleading for a cease-fire. The Bride at first seems steely and resolute, but her icy stare begins to thaw out when faced with Vernita's desperation.
Ultimately, the two decide to call a temporary truce, and whisk their knives behind their backs just as the child walks through the door. This peace would be short-lived, of course, but the sequence of events still speaks to an important part of Thurman's character, and to Tarantino's moral landscape. Keep in mind that at this point in the film, The Bride has already survived an attempt on her life, and, in the process, lost her unborn child. She's seething with anger and thirsting for vengeance, but she's still a mother, and those instincts are still powerful enough to override whatever urges may be lurking within -- strong enough to preclude her from murdering another mother in front of her child.
They're not strong enough to derail her mission entirely, as we soon find out, but they do give us brief insight into the human behind the cold-blooded Mamba. She may be steadfast in her determination and ruthless in her methods, but when faced with a viscerally moral dilemma, she still feels that pang of empathy.
Revenge, it seems, can sometimes be put on ice.