Kill Bill: Vol 2

April 22nd, 2004 Film, Film Reviews, Xpress

Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Starring; Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Gordon Liu, Samuel L Jackson

First up; you’re being swindled.

If you’re an observer of the way Hollywood works, the first thing to note about Kill Bill Vol. 2 is the ‘official’ line about the reason to break Kill Bill into two films. According to the cult movie wunderkind director and outspoken Miramax head honcho Harvey Weinstein, the original script was just too long. QT dug his heels in and refused to make edits, so they decided to do the script justice by releasing the film in two parts.

The cynical had already decided it was a way of getting tens of millions all over the world to shell out $25 instead of $12 for a single movie. Now that we can compare the two parts, it’s obvious in everything from the aesthetic styling to the dialogue that they were two movies from the get go.

Where Vol. 1 was Tarantino’s Hong Kong/samurai code/Asian exploitation bloodfest, Vol. 2 is his spaghetti western, with so many nods (in the script, camera angles and music) to Sergio Leone and his contemporaries you expect a cameo from Clint Eastwood. Where Bill was an unseen, enigmatic figure in Vol. 1, here he’s front and centre and very much part of the action. And where Vol. 1 was mostly absent of the cool, scatterdash dialogue fans loved about all Tarantino’s other movies (an absence many people decried), Vol. 2 devotes ample screen time to it. And in a very strange coincidence of timing, the part they ‘decided’ to make the cliffhanger at the end of Vol. 1 just happened to be at the halfway point’

With two names crossed off her death list, The Bride (Thurman) continues her quest to slice her way through her former assassin colleagues to her former boss and lover, Bill (Carradine). Having all moved on from their roles in the Deadly Vipers Assassination Squad, they’ve scattered to all corners of the world, and after dispatching suburban housewife Vernita Greene (Fox) and Tokyo mob boss O-Ren ishii (Liu), only Bud (Madsen) and Elle (Hannah) remain aside from Bill himself.

Told in chapters that jump back and forth in time as in Vol. 1, we meet The Bride at her wedding rehearsal in El Paso just before Bill and his fearsome posse track her down and leave the wedding party and her — or so they believe — for dead.

Picking up at her arrival back from Tokyo, she moves in on Bud (Madsen), now a trailer-trash strip bar bouncer in the middle of nowhere. Outwitted and overpowered by Bud, we leave her after Bud and his creepy friend bury her alive. In Tarantino style, we leave The Bride inside the Lonely Grave of Paula Schultz and see more of her back-story, how Bill bought her to learn the art of killing at the hands of tongue-in-cheek kung fu master Pai Mei (Liu).

Fate soon deals its hand because of Bud’s priceless Honzu sword (the master samurai sword craftsman who fashioned The Bride’s sword in Vol. 1), and both Bud and Elle Driver are delivered into the Bride’s hands before the climatic showdown.

The question is that while all the Tarantino elements are well and truly in place (shuffled timeline, iconic characters, carefully woven dialogue, cult movie references), is it better, worse or the same as Vol. 1? Does it complement it, add to it, or should it indeed have been one long movie (not inconceivable when you consider the length of films like Titanic (3 and 3/4 hours)? On first viewing, it’s hard to say

Like all his films, it’ll never disappear. Its mystique and appeal will grow with the passage of time every time you see it. There’s a layered quality and richness to the way Tarantino makes movies which means you can’t just watch it once at the movies and forget it like you can most Hollywood fodder. After your first viewing, you might be unimpressed. It might be because — after waiting six years for ‘the fourth film by Quentin Tarantino’ — you’ll fall victim to over-expectation. If you’re a fan, you’ll give Kill Bill the time it deserves and will no doubt get in years to come.

The cultish imagery isn’t as strong as it was in Vol. 1, where the House of Blue Leaves and Nightclub battles were straight out of the classic Asian action/splatter movies of the 70’s. This time around, some of the reverential production design is dispensed with to concentrate on moving the story forward. And the entire final act — where The Bride tracks Bill to his house (with a twist that was hinted at in Vol. 1) — shows a side to Tarantino we never expected to see, one seemingly at odds with the eternal teenaged cult movie fanboy.

But it’s still cool, there’s still an in-your-face swagger and confidence about Kill Bill that speaks volumes about the intentions of the director — that he makes movies like the ones he loves to please himself, not you — and it’ll further cement his status as a major cinematic force.

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