Well, its over, folks. KILL BILL, the glorious epic that has consumed Quentins life for the last several years, has been released upon the public. Maybe unleashed is the better word. The most exciting thing about this volume is that its even better than the first. Plus, the film is far different from the script that Ive had for the last year or two, so I was pleasantly surprised by the film on many occasions.
Lets do a little recap, just for the slow people out there. Uma Thurman reprises her role as The Bride, an assassin that used to work for the evil death-pimp Bill. She tried to get out of his employ, disappearing and getting engaged to a guy who ran a used records store, and Bill didnt take it very well. On the day of her wedding rehearsal, The Bride is beaten, shot, and believed dead by Bill and the other members of The Brides assassin squad (The DiVAS). She wakes up after four years in a coma to find her baby missing (she was pregnant at the time of her death), her legs atrophied, and with a mind set on revenge. The bulk of KILL BILL in both films revolves around The Bride tracking down these 5 bastards and killing them off in spectacularly bloody ways.
In the first film, The Bride (Hereafter referred to as TB because Im too lazy to keep writing out The Bride) eliminated two of her former team members played by Vivica Fox and Lucy Liu before sending a message to Bill that she was coming after him, too. We found out in the final moments of VOLUME ONE that TBs daughter had not, in fact, died when TB was attacked. When VOL. TWO begins, TB is going after Daryl Hannah (as Elle Driver), Michael Madsen (as Budd, titty-bar bouncer for hire), and, of course, Bill.
One of the big problems I had with the first film I liked it, but there were some pretty substantial flaws I couldnt love unconditionally was the shallowness of it all. The film was like one, long fight scene, and I found myself yearning for the trademark Tarantino Dialogue and complex plot structure. It was a revenge tale nothing more, nothing less. So, I was enormously happy to find that VOL. TWO was a return to the things we fell in love with in Tarantinos earlier films: The pop-culture infused dialogue, the complex plot structure and screwed up chronology, the off-beat and frequently verbose characters. It was because of these things that I loved VOL. TWO while I simply enjoyed VOL. ONE.
As Ive already mentioned, the plot for VOLUME TWO is simple more revenge, more fights but the film is saved from being a retread of VOLUME ONE by its dialogue and characters. TB has two underlings to off before she gets to Bill…and theres that issue of TBs daughter floating around that needs to be resolved. The film follows TB as she tracks these people down, undergoes some serious injuries herself, and disposes of those who have wronged her. The ending is satisfying, something I had concerns about ever since I heard about the films plot.
In the acting department, Uma Thurman goes all out to impress us and win us over as The Bride. She obviously went through some hellish training for this role, but its paid off: Theres not a single moment where you dont believe shes actually doing the things that she appears to be doing. She brings a lot of heart to the role, and the scenes where she finds out about her daughter are enormously touching. These were some of my favorite scenes in the film.
Michael Madsen is…well, not as good as I expected. He was very…adequate, I guess. I loved, loved, loved Madsen in RESERVOIR DOGS, but he seemed very sluggish and low-key here, something I wasnt expecting. Hes as heartless here as he was as Mr. Blonde, but I dug that character more.
Daryl Hannah, on the other hand, was better than I expected. The scene wherein she describes the effects of a snake bite from the deadly Black Mamba is hilarious, and she was just as believable in her fight scenes as Uma was in hers. These two have a knock-down, drag-out, no-holds-barred, dirty-ass fight near the midway point in the film, and it was just as entertaining as the first films House of Blue Leaves segment. The way the fight ends, in particular, was absolutely perfect, and theres a money shot in this sequence that had the audience I saw the film with shrieking with laughter, revulsion, and applause. Youll know it when you, er, see it.
The real star of the film, though, is David Carradine as the titular bad guy. What charisma! What a face! Originally, Warren Beatty was slated to play Bill. But he pussied out when he learned hed have to undergo some serious training with swords and martial arts for the role. Great career move, there, chief. You could have familiarized yourself with a whole new generation, made fans of them all, but you didnt want to wear yourself out swinging a sword around. No matter: David Carradine is phenomenal. So phenomenal, in fact, Im going to dedicate an entire follow-up paragraph to him.
See? Here it is. Carradine gets some of the best lines in either of KILL BILLs volumes, and he gets a handful of monologues that I predict will become just as quotable as PULP FICTIONs Royale With Cheese discussion. I particularly enjoyed the Superman monologue, as well as the story he tells about Pai Mei (more on him in a moment). He delivers every one of his lines as though it were the last chance hed ever get to talk in front of a camera. Who knows? Maybe it will be. Tarantino has achieved yet another career resurrection, but it could go one of two ways for Carradine from here: The Travolta Route, which leads to overexposure and a slew of fat-ass paychecks; Or, the Robert Forster Way, which leads to…not much. I hope its the former.
Now, lets talk about Pai Mei. The sequences with this kick-ass martial arts master were show stoppingly great. The audience I saw the film rowdy to begin with was in stitches every time Pai Mei stroked his evil beard in an evil manner while laughing evilly. Just great stuff. Youve all seen that shot of the dude jumping onto the end of TBs sword, but thats just the tip of the iceberg for this sequence. I think that this chapter called The Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei was my favorite portion of the film.
Another sequence that deserves some mentioning is the Lonely Grave of Paula Schultz chapter. In this portion of the film, Tarantino gives us what might be the most effective and squirm-inducing Buried Alive sequence ever committed to film. Look for the stretch where the screen goes totally black and the sounds of dirt falling on a pine-covered coffin lid come crashing out of the theaters speakers. This, too, was one of my favorite parts of the film.
In all, each sequence seems to top the next, all building up to an ultimately satisfying and tense confrontation between TB and Bill, during which a lot of questions will be answered and a few mysteries solved. I should mention yet another sequence I really enjoyed, before I forget to talk about it: The sequence where Bill and TB talk at the chapel before TBs wedding rehearsal is just brilliant, establishing menace through some tense dialogue exchanges between these two (TB: Are you gonna be nice? Bill: All my life, Ive never been nice. But Ill try my hardest to be sweet.) This is just a great, solid piece of filmmaking that I think many of you will enjoy more than the first. I give this film my highest recommendation Doctors Orders.
Bottom Line: KILL BILL VOLUME TWO is better, much better, than VOLUME ONE. You will have one helluva time watching this flick. Youll gag, youll laugh, youll applaud, youll stare in amazement at the fucking morons who brought their 3 year old kids to the film who decided to stand next to my aisle throughout the film. Well, okay, maybe they wont be there…but youll feel my pain, right? Check out VOLUME TWO, and with someone who loves Tarantino movies. And make sure the person you bring stays awake (unlike my date for the evening, who wasnt sleeping because the film was boring but because theyd had a long-ass day and blah, blah, blah), because theyll be missing one of the most exciting films of the last several years. See VOLUME TWO, folks Doctors Orders.