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Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004) Print E-mail
Friday, 16 April 2004
In “Vol. 1,” we saw one-time super-assassin Black Mamba, aka the Bride (Uma Thurman) get shot in the head at what appears to be her wedding (in “Vol. 2,” we learn it was the wedding rehearsal) by ex-boss/lover Bill (David Carradine). Bill brought in his whole Deadly Viper Assassination Squad – younger brother Budd (Michael Madsen), one-eyed Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), gangster chieftain O-Ren Ishiiii (Lucy Liu) and hitwoman turned housewife Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) – to shoot up the event. The Bride survives a four-year coma, wakes up and sets out on a course of revenge. In “Vol. 1,” she has a spectacular fight with Vernita and a mindblowing climactic setpiece in which she fights her way through an entire army of bodyguards to get to O-Ren. This leaves Budd, Elle and of course Bill to deal with in “Vol. 2.”

Tarantino doesn’t go exactly where we might expect with this in terms of pacing, action or back story. The situation between Beatrix (as the Bride is known to Bill) and Bill is a lot more complicated and nuanced than what we’ve seen so far might lead us to believe, which at times allows “Kill Bill Vol. 2” to turn into bittersweet drama, yet the movie still contains a dizzying array of effects and staples of the low-budget action flicks we all grew up watching – trailers in the desert, kung-fu training sessions, even the hand shooting up out of a grave (albeit there’s nothing supernatural going on). While there is a lot of fighting and some astoundingly bloody moments, “Vol. 2” doesn’t even try to come up with anything like the Tokyo nightclub fight from the first movie in terms of physicality. Instead, it goes for one-on-one conflict that often plays out differently than convention might lead us to anticipate and emotional intricacy rather than balletic violence.

The filmmaker is still having tons of fun recalling and recreating the experience of sitting down in a grindhouse to watch a triple bill of made-on-a-dime movies, so there are deliberate reel-change marks and bleeps in places. The soundtrack is a suitable blend of influences from all over: Spaghetti Western themes, Japanese movie music and contemporary rockabilly, with a primary score by The RZA.

As the Bride, Thurman seems like she can do pretty much anything and is given the opportunity to amply prove it – she is equally convincing as a stone-cold vengeance goddess, a wretched and humiliated student totally cowed by the teacher and a font of great tenderness. Carradine gives what may be a career-best performance as Bill, who somehow manages to have absolutely human longing, regret and rueful humor while still being the epitome of an action movie badass bad guy. Hannah is splendid as the Bride’s cool as ice self-appointed arch-nemesis, Madsen is swell as a font of casual malevolence and Gordon Liu has twinkly fun as the Bride’s severe martial arts instructor. Michael Parks is likewise very entertaining as Bill’s elderly mentor (he also reprises his role from “Kill Bill Vol. 1” as a Texas sheriff investigating the church shootings) and Samuel L. Jackson has a cameo as the church organist.

“Kill Bill Vol. 2” is a potent combination of so many styles, moods and textures that by the finale, we feel that we’ve received both a distilled history of an era within action filmmaking and a powerful emotional experience that is normally associated with another type of storytelling altogether. The movie won’t be all things to all people, but it actually comes close while upholding Tarantino’s unique vision throughout. Taken with its predecessor, the “Kill Bill” saga qualifies as a contemporary epic.

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