KILL BILL: VOL. 2
*** (out of 5)
April 16, 2004
Uma Thurman as THE BRIDE/BLACK MAMBA
Lucy Liu as O-REN ISHI/COTTONMOUTH
Vivica A. Fox as VERNITA GREEN/COPPERHEAD
Darryl Hannah as ELLE DRIVER/CALIFORNIA MOUNTAIN SNAKE
Michael Madsen as BUDD/SIDEWINDER
David Carradine as BILL
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
BY KEVIN CARR
Sometimes the whole is better than the sum of its parts. And sometimes the parts are better than the whole. And sometimes one part is significantly better than the others. When it comes to “Kill Bill,” the first part is probably as good as – if not better than – the whole, but the second part leaves a bit to be desired.
“Kill Bill Vol. 2” takes up where “Kill Bill Vol. 1” left off. The Bride (Uma Thurman), whose wedding party was slaughtered by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad on the eve of her wedding, is seeking revenge. After waking from a four year coma, The Bride starts hunting down the members of the squad. She’s already killed O Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) and Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox). Now, she’s after Budd (Michael Madsen), Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah) and – saving the best for last – Bill (David Carradine).
While it may appear that Bill targeted The Bride for death because she tried to leave the assassination business, that’s really not the case. After all, the entire Deadly Viper Assassination Squad has moved on with their own lives, with the possible exception of Elle Driver. Bill didn’t go after The Bride because she left the biz. Bill went after The Bride because she was his – as was the daughter she was carrying in her womb.
I do have to laugh at the movie poster advertising, which bills this as “The new film by Quentin Tarantino.” Like the over-hyped “The 4th film by Quentin Tarantino” advertising that accompanied “Kill Bill Vol. 1,” this is equally as silly. It’s really not the “new film.” It’s just the second part of his 4th film.
What happened with “Kill Bill Vol. 2” is exactly what I feared. “Kill Bill Vol. 1” was a sharp, fresh spin on the whole revenge film concept. While nothing was terribly original, it was still a fun flick – and now with it released on DVD, it has stood up to multiple viewings in my mind. However, “Kill Bill Vol. 2” is a bit of a let down.
The problem with this second half is that it just doesn’t have the same punch as the first. What made “Kill Bill Vol. 1” really pop was its snappy use of music, its ability to emulate different film styles and of course lots and lots and lots of bloody action.
“Kill Bill Vol. 2” has the same use of music, but there is far less action in this piece. The story itself seems stretched, and The Bride makes some bad decisions worthy of a screaming virgin in a horror movie – including one that leaves her shot in the chest and at the whim of Budd. While it mixes certain filmmaking styles – like film noir at the beginning and the grainy 16mm look of old martial arts films – there certainly isn’t anything as snappy or fresh as the anime sequence in the original.
Tarantino has never been a master at dialogue. At best, he is like Kevin Smith – he can write a certain style of dialogue that works for a very limited use. Where Smith’s best dialogue comes from slackers pontificating about pop culture and the meaning of life, Tarantino’s dialogue is a caricature of 1970s exploitation films. It can be punchy, entertaining and downright hilarious, but it’s still cheesy dialogue.
Where “Kill Bill Vol. 1” was steeped in action and flash, “Kill Bill Vol. 2” is filled with long, drawn-out scenes where lethal opponents would rather talk each other to death than draw their swords. Tarantino even stoops to using dialogue as a raw expository technique with a flashback scene of Bill telling The Bride a story about his kung fu master. In “Vol. 1,” Tarantino used creative forms of narration for such blatant exposition, but here, it’s just a doey-eyed Uma Thurman listening to David Carradine tells the story while he interjects “Peter and the Wolf” style musical themes with his Japanese flute.
Now, as a follow-up to “Kill Bill Vol. 1,” “Kill Bill Vol. 2” really isn’t that bad. It answers the few questions from the first (not the least of which, the Bride’s real name). When the first volume of “Kill Bill” came out, I said that the film might have worked better if Tarantino actually exercised some restraint in the editing bay. Now seeing the entire saga in its 3 1/2 hour glory, I am convinced this could have been a better movie if it had been only a single 2 1/2 hour film. In many ways, the fat left in “Kill Bill Vol. 2” felt too much like padding to justify a second movie.
Personally, I can’t wait for the complete “Kill Bill” film to come out on DVD to see the entire movie. And I guess that was the Brothers Weinstein’s plan in the first place, don’t you think?