Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quentin Tarantino Zigs, Then Zags With Kill Bill, Vol. 2.

The Good: Good dialogue, Interesting story, Does what it sets out to do.
The Bad: Limited DVD bonus features, Somewhat repetitive feel to it.
The Basics: Weird, filled with menace and great dialogue, Kill Bill, Vol. 2. is a violent story that takes an abrupt right turn into . . . conversation!

When the Kill Bill movies by Quentin Tarantino were coming out, I recall reading how Tarantino wanted the films to be together as a single film, but the sheer volume of the movie and the unrelenting nature of the revenge plot seemed difficult for viewers to handle in a single sitting. As a result, he released two films, Kill Bill, Vol. 1 and Kill Bill, Vol. 2. Kill Bill, Vol. 2 picks up more or less where the first volume (reviewed here!) left off. The second film is a little longer and it lacks the chapter feel to it ("Vol. 1" had several cards with titles and while there are a few in "Vol. 2" there are fewer and the narrative is a bit more linear).

With Kill Bill, Vol. 2 Quentin Tarantino wraps up the story he began in the first volume and he creates one of the archetypal kung-fu movies of contemporary times, complete with their campy conceits and a high level of violence. Unlike the first volume, there is less gore in Kill Bill, Vol. 2, but there is more graphic violence and the gore that there is - the pulling out of a human eyeball being chief among them - is much more visible and dwelt on than in the first volume. This film is also of almost no interest to those who have not seen the first film. That said, it is remarkably easy to get caught up as the opening monologue lays out the plot.

The Bride, identified now as Beatrix Kiddo, is driving to finally kill Bill, the man who shot her in the head and left her for dead over four years prior. From that declaration, the film flashes back to Bill meeting with his former lackey, Budd, who is now an alcoholic redneck who works as a bouncer for a club in the middle of nowhere. Budd, however, manages to get the drop on Beatrix, filling her full of buckshot and burying her alive. As Beatrix struggles to break free of her coffin, Elle Driver resurfaces and dispatches Budd.

Beatrix recalls her initial meeting with Bill and how he had her trained under the kung-fu master Pai Mei. Remembering her training, Beatrix recalls as well how Bill betrayed her at the wedding chapel by having her beaten to a pulp and almost killed. With renewed strength, Beatrix breaks out, hunts Elle and then goes after Bill, only to discover that there are still secrets to be revealed to her!

Kill Bill, Vol. 2 is largely a hero coming to power story, with one big divergence. In fact, those who are not familiar with Quentin Tarantino's quirky sense of humor are likely to be quite thrown by the movie. As Beatrix moves in on Bill, Tarantino shakes things up, not by extending the chase, but by ending it prematurely. Tarantino stops the violence and has Bill and Beatrix sit down and talk for over half an hour and the abruptness of the turn of events is funny, weird and refreshing after the catfight between Beatrix and Elle.

In the film's resolution, Kill Bill, Vol. 2 becomes an archetypal Quentin Tarantino movie in a way that the first volume never managed to, through the dialogue. Between the final scene and the otherwise unrelated scene between Budd and his boss at the club, Tarantino re-establishes himself as a master of weird, humorous dialogue which creates quirky dialogue. In this movie, characters talk a lot more and outside the scenes involving Beatrix and Pai Mei, the film is much more about the weird, often horrible characters than it is about simple slaughter.

And for a film that is so over-the-top violent in so many parts, Tarantino takes a surprisingly classy turn by not graphically illustrating the slaughter in the church that has been tiptoed around the whole series. The first film shows the effects, this movie leads up to the moment the death squad enters the chapel, but Tarantino does not fill in that particular gap and it works nicely for the overall film.

Still, this is a primarily plot-driven film. Beatrix has set her sights on killing bill and the movie does not really diverge from that and it doesn't explain it much either. Why Beatrix chooses to go on a killing spree as opposed to hiding out from her former mentor and lover is never explored, but the film remains interesting by taking the surprising turns it does in promoting conversation over violence. The characters are merely the vessels to the plot and the plot is very simple in this case. Tarantino's narrative technique, which mixes up time yet again, keeps the simple plot flowing with decent speed.

In addition to his usual narrative conceits and level of dialogue, Tarantino uses more of his cache of regular actors in Kill Bill, Vol. 2 to enhance the dark drama. As such, Michael Madsen (memorable from Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs!) has a meaty role as Budd and Samuel L. Jackson pops up as well. Tarantino also uses lesser known actors like Gordon Liu as Pai Mei and Liu is great as the strict martial arts teacher. He has the ability to screw up his face in ways that are hilarious and it fits the tongue-in-cheek nods to kung-fu movies of yore that Tarantino is attempting to reinvent with this movie.

Actor David Carradine appears as Bill and he plays his usual cool, quiet character. However, as Bill, Carradine is dangerous and has a projected menace that gives his character an air of power throughout the movie that is unsettling to watch. Tarantino gets an amazing performance out of Carradine.

As well, he pushes Uma Thurman in a more emotionally powerful direction. Tarantino got great work out of Thurman in the first volume, but in Kill Bill, Vol. 2 she takes on an added sense of strength that is enjoyable to watch. She carries the film and her ability to project shock, fear and determination is incredible.

On DVD, there is a lone deleted scene and a featurette, but that's all. This is somewhat disappointing to fans of Tarantino's works and it is likely to leave viewers who enjoy the movie hoping for a more impressive two-disc version down the road. That said, on its own, Kill Bill, Vol. 2 is an impressive work and a great way to cap off the story of the Bride.

For other movies with Samuel L. Jackson, please visit my reviews of:
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Other Guys
Iron Man 2
The Clone Wars
Iron Man
The Star Wars Prequel Trilogy
The Incredibles
The Red Violin
Jurassic Park


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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