Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Gordon Liu
Plot: The Bride continues her rampage of revenge, pitting her against two deadly assassins and the Snake Charmer himself, Bill (Carradine).
Kill Bill Vol. 2’s biggest problem is the fact that, in many ways, it is so radically different from the first entry in the two-part series. While the first Kill Bill was fun, complete with absurd wounds and impossible odds, this is a slower and more thoughtful animal, even if it still keeps to the louder than life martial arts theme.
When we left off, The Bride had slaughtered O-Ren, letting her assistant Sofie Fatale live, so she could whisper the tales of the Bride’s quest for vengeance to the other assassins. Therefore, Bill, the leader of the group of assassins that attempted to kill the Bride on her wedding day, feels compelled to warn his remaining two protégés that she is coming for them. However, everyone has moved on, so they still attempt to take on this force of reckoning alone. However, Bill has a few tricks still up his sleeve, so that when the Bride does get around to confronting her old mentor, she might find herself in way over her head.
Kill Bill Vol. 2 disappointed the majority of fans, mainly because Tarantino is the kind of director who refuses to make the same film twice. This is a shame, because, despite the director dropping the idea of making another fantastic spectacle like the Bride vs. the Crazy 88, Kill Bill Vol. 2 is a really good film. It explores more elements of martial arts cinema, even the casting of the main villain being one of the leading actors of that era, David Carradine. There is even a deleted scene floating around the internet where Carradine takes on a group of assassins in a badly dubbed English showdown. It is all very nostalgic and that is what keeps you hooked till the very end.
In all honesty, the first half of this film isn’t all that different. It is less full-on violence, but it satisfies the action craving nonetheless. The Bride takes on Daryl Hannah’s bitter rival from the last film and also, the retired assassin, Budd, played by Tarantino regular, Michael Madsen. While Madsen doesn’t really get too much time to show us how cool an assassin he really is, the fight with Elle Driver in the claustrophobic space of the caravan is exactly what we wanted from the movie. While it reminds the viewer of a more modern martial arts style, Van Damme perhaps, rather than an old-timey era, it still brings all of the thrills we want, as well as having one of the more memorable moments from the Kill Bill series.
Then the second half of the film slows right down to a crawl. It becomes dialogue heavy, as we expect from a Tarantino movie outside of the Kill Bill franchise. Tarantino puts Uma Thurman and David Carradine into a room and lets them bounce lines off one another. Cue Carradine milking the time-honored tradition of the evil bad guy monologue, as well as delving into pop culture to tide Tarantino’s pop culture addiction over. It is all very indulgent, but at the same time, very enjoyable. The emotion runs high, Tarantino chooses the perfect soundtrack to tie the moment up and brings the two films to an epic conclusion. Despite people finding fault in the lack of bloody kills, I personally enjoyed the quieter end to the story, as it turns this one-dimensional revenge thriller into a deeper character piece. Tarantino might have started this venture into martial arts cinema seeking cheap thrills and references to the past, but at this point he turns this story into something much more.
Word of warning: the final fight is very short. This is probably the biggest regret of all, seeing as most of the audience put up with the indulgent monologues, so we could get to the epic showdown between Bill and the Bride. When it comes down to it, the clash is devastatingly short. Don’t get me wrong, it is well orchestrated and defines everything that we needed from the moment, but it is hard not to be dissuaded by the fact that the whole affair lasts under ten punches. Blink and you miss it. Still, once you’ve gotten over that little anti-climax, there isn’t too much else to complain about, when looking back at Kill Bill Vol. 2.
Final Verdict: Slower and more serious than the first part of the franchise, yet that doesn’t necessarily make it the lesser film. If anything, it could be the superior.
Fine work again, sir. It’s basically east meets west over the two films and I think I enjoyed the second more because of its western theme and I’m more of a cowboy spaghetti western fan than I am the yakuza/samurai fan from the first.
Very good review. Honestly, the muted fight between Thurman and Carradine might be my favorite part of either film. Why? It’s unexpected. To me anyway, that makes it interesting. 🙂
What Tarantino has always been good at is showing us the moments that most other movies in that particular genre leave out. Remember the discussions between Jules Winfield and Vincent Vega in PULP FICTION? Like when they talked about Mia Wallace, or when they discussed whether or not Marcellus Wallace was right for having a guy thrown through a glass window? You don’t usually see hitmen talk about that kind of stuff. He did the same thing here in KILL BILL VOLUME 2. For an example, I point to the scene where Beatrix explains why she stopped being an assassin after she knew she was pregnant. She says, “I had to choose…I chose her.”
As for the fight with Bill being the fastest, some may view that as a letdown…but with all the grandeur that has come before, and the fact that it occurs during the quiet/slow part of the film, I think it makes the most sense. If it had been some epic, drawn-out battle, Tarantino would have had to keep topping himself over and over.
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