Kill Bill: Vol. 2
Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Starring Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks, Bo Svenson, Jeannie Epper, Perla Honey-Jardine. (2004, R, 127 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 16, 2004
Q&U: Quentin and Uma. They’re back, and this time they’re really going to kill Bill. The second volume of the revenge saga comes six months after the release of the first, but this baby’s no preemie. In fact, overdue is more like it. The film is a fitting finale to a tale whose climactic action was never in question (this is, after all, titled Kill Bill). The pleasure derives not so much from what happens, but how. And how! Kill Bill: Vol. 2 bursts with energy and excitement and, as with any Tarantino project, movie love and homages swell the edges of every frame. If you haven’t seen Vol. 1, this second volume will work fine on its own. However, it still remains for this reviewer to see how the saga plays when both volumes are combined and presented in one viewing. What’s clear from discrete viewings of each volume is that they differ greatly in tone. Where Vol. 1 most obviously referenced blaxploitation and yakuza films, Vol. 2 owes more debts to Westerns and chopsocky pictures. Vol. 2 also includes more psychological detail as we get to know more about all the characters introduced (and sometimes barely glimpsed) in the first part. Bill (Carradine) finally gets his screen time: He’s there in Vol. 2’s opening sequences as the movie backtracks in time to witness what occurs at the Bride’s (Thurman) wedding in El Paso – before the massacre we witnessed in Vol. 1. We also get to see more of those other DIVA assassins, Budd (Madsen) and Elle (Hannah). The Pussywagon is gone, the Bride now drives a convertible coupe (in black-and-white sequences that make her look like she’s heading to some film noir locale). And while we learn things like the Bride’s real name and how Elle lost her eye, what is revealed are not really deep psychological secrets. The characters in this volume simply talk more than before. Whereas Vol. 1 was at times almost wordless and curiously stingy with Tarantino’s distinctive touch with dialogue, in Vol. 2, there’s almost too much dialogue at times. Perhaps its because precious little is ultimately revealed about these characters despite the little shards they toss us. Basically, we learn that the Bride – with pregnancy urine stick in hand – gives up her life as an assassin the second she learns of her pregnancy. In some quarters, that may pass for psychological insight, but in most feminist quarters that amounts to hooey. For all the attention given to this indomitable female warrior created by Tarantino and Thurman, their Bride is as subject to biology as any woman in a D.W. Griffith picture. Her womb hasn’t completely replaced her spine, but the Bride’s actions take on a more hormonally driven bent. Nevertheless, Kill Bill: Vol. 2 is a blast to watch. Madsen as Budd lends the proceedings some real demented edge, Elle is a stunner and her catfight with the Bride within the cramped confines of a trailer is full of ingenious delights, Carradine simmers with untapped emotions, and Gordon Liu is back in this volume playing yet another character – Master Pei Mei, the martial-arts mentor who possesses the secret of the mysterious "five-point exploding palm technique" of assassination. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 is a compendium of really neat stuff and nifty sequences, and it will just have to do until Vol. 3 or reunification come along.