Kill Bill Volume 2 Review
The second part of Quentin Tarantino’s roaring rampage of revenge, a “western” to the first film’s “eastern”, Kill Bill Vol 2 will split QT’s fans as surely as a Hanzo sword. Though it’s tempting to imagine the original 88-minute feature it could have been, shorn of the flabby detail and elongated scenes that prevent both films matching the director’s best, the fact remains that even flawed Tarantino, self-indulgent and out of control Tarantino is a visceral, visually arresting and downright cool cinematic experience. And of the two Bills, make no mistake, Volume 2 is better.
Unlike many, I was left cold by the first, impressed by the pyrotechnics and choreography of the violence right up until they got boring. But I was intrigued enough by The Bride and the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad to wonder what the full story was. For some of the so-called revelations revealed in Vol 2, it wasn’t worth the wait – The Bride’s real name is a joke and a poor one at that – but others make a greater impression, such as the mirroring of Uma Thurman’s character with Daryl Hannah’s, most noticeably in the explanation of how Elle lost her eye. As in the first volume, there is endless jumping from scene to scene, often with less logic, yet Vol 2 has greater depth, expanding the relationship between The Bride and her world-weary mentor/lover/nemesis Bill.
What Vol 1 really lacked was the cracking Tarantino dialogue. Nothing in Vol 2 is as memorable as “a Royale with cheese” (Bill’s dissection of the Superman myth sounding tired and forced next to something like Mr Pink’s Madonna speech in Reservoir Dogs), but the character’s inveigh their words with mythic weight – The Bride’s revenge quest and indeed, the fate of everyone she slays rendered in stoic, sarcastic lines underscored by heroic, superhuman suffering. Sadism rules with a quick, slick tongue.
The two exceptions to this are David Carradine as Bill, perhaps too iconic for the part, his face and delivery alone enough to convey everything his interminably long waffling so nearly scuppers – a surprising, but touching ending to the film; and Pai Mei (Chia Hui Liu), The Bride’s racist, misogynistic and parody-laden kung-fu master, seemingly from another film but bigger and better than this one. With lines from Tarantino’s top drawer, he’s the most enjoyable film creation of many a year.
The plot, such as it is, doesn’t take up much time, so Tarantino pads his scenes out, sometimes effectively, sometimes less so. A pointless Samuel L. Jackson cameo is the nadir of The Bride’s forcibly aborted wedding ceremony, which at times crackles with father-lover-daughter tension between Carradine and Thurman, but regrettably, is again strung out too long, as is the back story of Budd (Michael Madsen) in his bouncer job. Stripped of the menace he conveyed as Mr Blonde, Bill’s younger brother is a washed-up drunk. Although a sliver of Ennio Morricone soundtrack doesn’t herald the Sergio Leone-style standoff between him and The Bride it could and possibly should have, his torture of her, in all its horror film allusion, is captivating, meshing neatly with Pai Mei’s scenes.
Throughout, Vol 2’s fight scenes are incisive, it looks stylish, sounds stylish and Thurman is awesome. Never the most convincing actress, she inhabits The Bride totally and deserves another outing in the role. Sassy and deadly yet beaten and vulnerable, she’s Tarantino’s most developed character (admittedly, not saying much), in danger of becoming the legend the film pronounces. Undoubtedly worth the wait, whether it’s better to watch the Kill Bill volumes together or wait for the inevitable director’s slash remains to be seen.
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