KILL BILL: VOL. 2
(director/writer/producer: Quentin Tarantino; cinematographer: Robert Richardson; editor: Sally Menke; music: RZA; cast: Uma Thurman (the Bride/Beatrix Kiddo), David Carradine (Bill), Gordon Liu (Pei Mai), Daryl Hannah (Elle Driver), Michael Madsen (Budd), Michael Parks (Esteban Vihaio/Sheriff Earl McGraw), Bo Svenson (the Pastor), Jeannie Epper (Mrs. Harmony), Chris Nelson (Tommy, The Groom), Samuel L. Jackson (Rufus, The Organ Player), Perla Haney-Jardine (B.B.); Runtime: 137; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Lawrence Bender; Miramax; 2004)
“A film for the lovers of good filmmaking techniques despite the lesser qualities of the subject-matter.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The Kill Bill enterprise has been split into two parts as a business decision to increase volume and later market it as a deluxe-edition DVD package with all the bells and whistles. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 is Quentin Tarantino’s animal, a lively thrill ride into escapist action fare that plays as a tribute to old-school Asian martial-arts flicks and spaghetti westerns. Part 1 of Quentin Tarantino’s amoral joyride held up deliciously as a style over substance visual spectacle that energized this viewer into going with the parody of violence in action genre films. Part 2 picks up where that mayhem left off, but surprisingly clears up the loose ends of the plotline with more than an adequate degree of logic as to why the superheroine bitch Uma Thurman is bent on obsessive revenge against the base Bill (David Carradine). Part 2 is more verbose than action-filled, in reverse of Part 1 which was almost dialogue free and almost all action. Seemingly every character introduced in Vol. 2 must give an endless bullshit story that is long on dialogue explaining why they are a meanie. Some of this is stupid fun and plays out as wacky entertainment, but at other times it becomes tiresome and provides no intellectual stimulation.
The film opens with a black-and-white shot flashback to the wedding rehearsal of the Bride (Uma Thurman) in an isolated wedding chapel in El Paso, Texas, when Bill arrives unannounced. He was the Bride’s ruthless crime boss, mentor, father-figure and older lover/husband, whom she deserted by pretending to be killed by her enemies four months before when she found out that she was pregnant with his child and wished to get out of her assassin role for a more ‘normal’ life. The honest but goofy record store owner, the groom (Chris Nelson), is unaware of his bride’s past or that her real name is Beatrix Kiddo or of the bitter animosity Bill has for the Bride’s desertion, as Bill is falsely introduced to him as her father. Soon Bill’s hired assassins arrive and kill everyone in the chapel, though the wedding-dress-clad bride survives a bullet to the head and goes into a coma for four years.
The film picks up in the present. We are aware from the first part that the fully recovered Bride carried out her vow to take her revenge out on Bill’s assassin team, and now only Bill and two others remain alive before she completes her hateful mission to get all the assassins present during the wedding rehearsal massacre. The Bride next seeks out Bill’s younger redneck brother Budd (Michael Madsen). He lives in a dusty trailer in the middle of the prairie and works as a bouncer at a sleazy bar strip-joint. Since he was warned by Bill of her intentions, he is ready for the Bride and shoots her with a barrel full of rock salt as soon as she tries to open the door to his trailer. He then cell phones the eye-patch wearing assassin Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) to tell her of his catch and that he possesses the Bride’s priceless Hattori Hanzo sword. In line with the mean-spirited fun Tarantino is having with such cartoonish violence, Budd strikes a deal with Elle for her to come the next morning and pick up the Bride’s handmade sword for a million bucks. All Elle asks of Budd, is that he torture the Bride so that she dies in tremendous pain. Budd is only too glad to oblige and the wounded Bride is buried alive six feet under in a wooden coffin. Then there is a flashback to the Bride talking Bill into arranging for her to train under the mean-spirited Pai Mei (Gordon Liu), a Chinese martial arts master who teaches by being abusive and hates whites, women, Americans and those who can’t use chopsticks properly. Her exhausting sessions with this maverick teacher enables her to learn how to break out of the coffin and perfect a certain martial arts move that can kill by just a touch of the fingers.
It all leads to the final showdown with the devious bamboo flute playing Bill in his luxurious Mexican retreat, where she is astonished to find that he is raising her 4-year-old daughter (Haney-Jardine). Their long expected meeting gives each a chance to articulate their reasons for vengeance and how they must fight until the other is dead. This tender love moment was so absurd between these scummy lovers that it had a strangely effective heartless appeal to mankind’s essence of baseness. Bill kills time before the final fight to the end as he goes into a longwinded rap about what makes a true comic book hero and how wonderful it was that their daughter learned about the meaning of life and death by stepping on her goldfish that she placed on the carpet after removing it from the tank. The film was shot in a reshuffled chronology with catfights, assorted swordfights, and torture expressed as a fun way to be entertained.
This sort of violent nonsense is not for all tastes, but it does show-off the filmmaking skills of Tarantino and that Uma can act the part of an action gal with the best of ’em. Tarantino got the best out of all of the performers and not only from Uma, but also from Carradine, Madsen, Hannah, and Gordon Liu. They all make their roles juicier by the way they so naturally got into character. This installment completes the package in a satisfactory way that should sate the Tarantino enthusiasts and the large fanboy moviegoing audience that loves the cheesy action B-movies more than they do the serious arthouse flicks. Tarantino gets his redemption by making the revenge flick so bloody appetizing despite the action being so aimless and violent. The snappy dialogue and the thrilling action scenes and the marvelous pacing and the endless chatter about ’70s martial arts hokum, make it a rousing action pic to both savor and quickly forget. A film for the lovers of good film-making techniques despite the lesser qualities of the subject-matter.
REVIEWED ON 4/20/2004 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/