|Uma Thurman sets out to kill Bill and his remaining
cohorts in the second install-ment of Quentin
Tarantino’s four-hour tribute to blood,
guts and swords, “Kill Bill.”
Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Produced by Lawrence Bender
Starring Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah,
Michael Madsen and Gordon Liu
(out of four)
With “Kill Bill: Vol. 2,” Quentin Tarantino
reveals that the bag of tricks he used in his bloody
film’s first installment is actually a bottomless
pit of creativity and flair. The first volume of
his tribute to gory, action-stuffed revenge movies
was mainly eye candy, but the new film contains oodles
of sharp drama with trademark Tarantino dialogue
on top of all the action.
Tarantino has said that he didn’t change any
of the film to split it into two pieces, but the
two films work perfectly as separate entities. The
only possible (albeit unlikely) flaw would be that
the differing styles don’t all fit as one four-hour
epic. The tone here shifts to a more introspective
look at the post-modern violence, exploring the tumultuous
lives of the spree killers who have populated the
gore fests of lower pop culture. He even takes the
care to use a new title design, recalling old film
noir works. Both the hunted and the hunters now have
a more tragic side to their cursed lives.
In terms of large-scale action, nothing could have
matched the 100-against-one group battle that climaxed
the first film, but this film defies expectations
and doesn’t even try. While there are many
virtuoso fight scenes, they all take place between
two people, not 200.
The film takes place where the first one left off,
but since this is Tarantino, much of it consists
of flashbacks to before and during some of the events
portrayed in the first film. Uma Thurman again plays
The Bride, who woke up from a coma five years after
her former boss, Bill, and his female killers in
the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, her former
co-workers, crashed her wedding and killed everyone
except her—despite a bullet in the head courtesy
On her list, she now only has the patch-eyed Elle
Driver, aka California Mountain Snake (Daryl Hannah),
Bill himself and Bill’s brother, Budd, aka
Sidewinder (Michael Madsen).
The flashbacks include a black-and-white sequence
that takes place at the desert roadside chapel prior
to the wedding massacre. Bill pays a visit, posing
as the father of the bride. Tarantino augments the
sinister presence of Bill, played by “Kung
Fu” icon David Carradine, by making him a more
human character. Not only can we see his face this
time, but his conversations go beyond plotting.
Carradine and Madsen display a certain melancholy
when Bill comes to see Budd. The life of killers
called them, and they couldn’t refuse it. Budd
now attempts a “normal” life, living
in a trailer and half-assedly working a crappy strip-club
job. He refuses to plan a retaliation with Bill because,
he says, The Bride deserves her revenge, but this
doesn’t stop him from fighting back when she
comes to his door.
The claustrophobic nightmare that the attack on Budd
triggers the film’s second major flashback.
Like the first film, this one is separated into chapters,
each with different stylistic flares and film stocks.
The Bride trains under legendary martial artist Pei
Mei (Gordon Liu), who, Bill says to The Bride while
accompanying himself with a wooden flute, can make
an enemy’s heart explode by pushing a series
of pressure points.
Pei Mei’s skills humble The Bride—they’re
so great that the camera has to zoom out a bit after
each shot. Liu’s character enjoys insulting
his stupid American student until she learns to show
proper respect. Thurman, who brought constant energy
and nuance to her character in Vol. 1, has the opportunity
to display even more depth as she takes and gives
beatings with the determination of a superhero.
The training sequence creates a direct contrast to
the life The Bride tried to create through the failed
wedding. One life is an exciting, dangerous challenge;
the other represents safety and comfort with the
price of boredom. The Bride re-engages in the former
because the latter was unjustly taken from her.
With shots referencing everything from respected
filmmakers like Ford and Godard to grind-house classics,
Tarantino deconstructs the motives of the revenge-film
hero with the humorous observation of his best work.
It’s unclear whether The Bride can ever find
true happiness, but she can continue to kill for
the dream of justice and the simple life she never