Kill Bill: Vol. 2 picks up where we left off in KB:V1, with The Bride (Uma Thurman), having cut down her former colleagues, on her way to the final confrontation with Bill AKA “Snake Charmer” (David Carradine). We then move, in a flashback, to the tiny wedding chapel in Texas, and we see the events unfold that lead up to the point where we first met The Bride—bloodied, battered, and begging for her life. In fact, there's an abundance of explanations, flashbacks, and backstories in this movie, that are not just filler material, but filling-in material. You learn about The Bride's relationship with Bill and why she was getting married to another man even though she was knocked up with Bill's bastard, and her reason for leaving the DiVAS. More importantly, you'll learn why Bill wanted her killed (Bill apologizes later, saying he "overreacted").
The Bride, who now has a name (but I won’t tell you here), goes after the next two DiVAS on her list: Bill's estranged brother, Budd (Michael Madsen) and Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah). I don't really feel that I need to comment on Madsen's performance, as anyone who remembers him from the Reservior Dogs will recognize that he comes through once again as a sadistic, slimy punisher. Madsen's Budd, now living in a dilapidated trailer in the desert, works as a bouncer in a titty bar where there is no one to bounce, and is now on hard times, so much so that he told his brother he hocked his Hattori Hanzo sword. Seemingly out of touch with his sword skills, it appears that he would make an easy target for The Bride, but like she found out with Vernita Green, that there are some skills you don’t lose just because of retirement.
The person with whom I’ve been most impressed with was Darryl Hannah as the scene-stealing Elle Driver. This deliciously diabolical fiend was clearly The Bride's nemesis during her DiVA days and has treachery in her blood. Rarely does a marginal character make such an impact in a film. Forget her characters in Roxanne, Splash and Steel Magnolias, she goes against her usual type and does so well at it. I wish that Tarantino had dedicated more time to a Bride vs. Elle battle instead of the laborious and somewhat dry Bride vs. O-Ren Ishii confrontation. These two blonde babes go at it in a fierce, nasty catfight that, which unfortunately like all of the movie's action scenes, were too short. The passion between the two women reminded me (just a little bit) of the climactic battle between Jen and Shu-Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Speaking of martial arts movies, again Quentin Tarantino borrows heavily from and pays homage to the martial arts films of the 70's. One particularly fine chapter of the movie is entitled "The Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei" where we see how The Bride got her training as an assassin. Her master, Pai Mei (Gordon Liu) who also taught Bill, is a merciless character who possesses the wisdom of Yoda, the attitude of an angry black woman, and the agility of a Cirque du Soliel acrobat. Pai Mei teaches her several deadly and crippling techniques that will come back to haunt her former teammates, and ultimately save her life. (Her life is also saved by, of all things, a pregnancy test, in an amusing scene).
David Carradine performs nobly as the cool, calm, and collected Bill, and father of The Bride’s child, of whose fate we will learn. The only part of Bill we saw in KB:V1 was his hand, but now we see much more of him, and not just in a physical sense. We learn of his true feelings for The Bride and why she was his favorite operative. Somehow, Tarantino manages to make Bill a sympathetic character, which is somewhat unexpected being that he did try to kill the mother of his child. We even get to hear him play the flute, reminiscent of his Kung Fu days. (Yes, little Grasshopper is all grown up….and Master Kan and Master Po would be pissed!!!) Although he was second choice to Warren Beatty, Carradine brings nerves of steel and veins of ice water to his character’s demeanor, possibly infusing elements of his character from Kung Fu into the malevolent Bill. Even when he finally confronts The Bride, explains his reason for wanting to kill her in a voice so calm, so steady it's as if he was ordering a glass of wine. Carradine probably has some of the best writing of the script and does a brilliant thought provoking monologue about Superman, this is arguably his best film role in some time.
Some people called KB:V1 a mindless action flick with gratuitous violence and gore…(and to some extend that is true), but that is definitely not the case in KB:V2. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 has a deeper tone to it than the first movie and is more dialogue and character drive, unlike the first movie which was lighter on drama and more physically brutal. This part of the story is more profound, calculated, transcended. Make no mistake about it, Kill Bill: Vol. 2 contains plenty of violence, along with some comic relief, but it is tempered with a seriousness that the first movie did not possess. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 could stand on its own merits as a full film, which is something KB:V1, while equally enjoyable, could not do. The first movie seemed to be about anger, revenge, and hate…and while you would think the second film would continue in that same vein, you will be surprised that it diverts into another strong emotion. The Bride is actually motivated by love, the love of a mother, the love of a woman, and not so much the love of getting even. This love will eclipse any pleasure she would derive if she manages to kill Bill.
I don't know if we will see the Kill Bill franchise on the Oscar's list, but the pay off for Tarantino’s efforts are clearly evident, along with the critical and commercial success of the films, not only has he managed to revive his own career, but Thurman's as well. Initial criticism and skepticism over his decision to break the film into two parts are now turning to compliment and accolades. Kill Bill: Vol 2 was definitely worth the wait and a fine piece of work, showcasing Tarantino's remarkable talents as a film maker and a milestone achievement in cinema.
Notes: Kill Bill Vol. III is planed for 15 years from now, with an ironic plot twist. The focus will be Vernita Green's daughter, Nikki, who will seek revenge on the Bride for the death of her mother.
Czarina's Caustic Comment or Captious Compliment: Kill Bill kills, again !!.
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