Kill Bill Vol. 2

After a brief respite, the second half of what Miramax trumpets as "THE 4TH FILM FROM QUENTIN TARANTINO" reaches theaters, and it's quite a surprise (and wouldn't it be the fifth film?). Kill Bill Vol. 1 was a non-stop, gratuitously over-the-top, violent and very enjoyable film. Kill Bill Vol. 2 is much more introspective. Yes, there are some gnarly fight scenes, but the overall tone and pacing of this segment is slower and more deliberate. Tarantino opts for dialogue instead of fighting. The story picks up right after the events of Vol. 1, with the Bride (Uma Thurman, Paycheck, Kill Bill Vol. 1) still hot on the heels of the previously unseen Bill (David Carradine, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Lost Bullet). In fact, watching Vol. 1 is unnecessary. Tarantino begins Vol. 2 with a beautiful black and white flashback at the Bride's wedding, where Bill and the rest of his assassins slaughter the wedding part, and Bill shoots the pregnant Bride (her name is revealed to be Beatrix Kiddo) in the head, leaving her in a coma. Tarantino does something important here, which lays the groundwork for the overall tone of the narrative. As the slaughter starts, the assassins enter the building and begin firing automatic weapons. The camera actually backs up and pans away, so the only thing the viewer can see is a few stray muzzle flashes. This is the opposite of Thurman's wonderfully cartoonish fight against Lucy Liu and her minions in the first film, where Tarantino captured her slicing off her opponents' limbs with fetish-like zeal.

The showdown with Bill is inevitable, but before Tarantino (Kill Bill Vol. 1, Jackie Brown) can get to it, he needs Kiddo to plow through the two remaining members of DiVAS, Elle Driver and Budd. He also takes some more time to flash back and show more of Kiddo's past, fleshing out her character and making her motivations more understandable. Where the first film seemed to channel Tarantino's love of Asian cinema, Vol. 2 is much more a product of his adoration of old westerns. The pacing, the music, and even the showdowns are something of a fusion between spaghetti westerns and old Hong Kong martial arts movies. Tarantino is a psycho when it comes to his knowledge of all things cinematic, but where he transcends this is his ability to fuse many different genres together into something familiar yet new, and usually very enjoyable. His sheer enthusiasm for movies translates off the screen and right into the viewer. Old Hong Kong cinematics come out in Kiddo's vicious training with Pai Mei (Hong Kong legend Gordon Liu, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Drunken Monkey), as wire acrobatics and hand-to-hand martial arts (along with some gratuitous beard-flinging) rule the screen.

Thurman again is mesmerizing to watch on screen, and unlike Vol. 1, Tarantino gives her a lot more to do, and brutalizes her a lot less. Don't be mistaken, she still takes some pretty bad beatings, especially at the hands of Budd (Michael Madsen, Kill Bill Vol. 1, My Boss's Daughter) and Driver (Darryl Hannah, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Casa de los Babys). At least in the second, she gives just as good as she takes in a spectacular fight scene within the confines of a cramped camper. Capping everything off is Kiddo's final confrontation with Bill. To this point, Tarantino portrays Bill as some unstoppable monster. Rightly so, given his past actions. One would expect more violence and blood when they finally meet, but this is actually the most 'talky' section of the entire film. It also shows Tarantino's growth as a filmmaker. It's easy for somebody like him to channel his ADD into action violence. It is harder to get him to sit down and have two people talk.

It is confusing both to the viewer and to Kiddo. Where is this monster that everybody is waiting for? Why is he speaking calmly and making a sandwich? It's great to watch Tarantino throw off everybody and completely stop the momentum, yet still be fascinated with the conversation taking place between the two. There is an uneasy tension to the entire proceedings. Carradine has never been that much of an actor. People know him best for his (relatively short) stint on Kung-Fu, and Tarantino uses this to his advantage. Bill is somewhat of a philosopher, not averse to using brutal violence. However, he, and Tarantino are exercising a modicum of restraint, although one can clearly see the violence seething underneath the surface. Most of Kill Bill Vol. 2 alternates between slower, more thoughtful moments, and louder, energetic ones. It's a little longer than Vol. 1, but this isn't noticeable at all. In its own loud brash way, Vol. 2 is a real fun flick to sit through, and one can imagine watching with Tarantino sitting on the couch, fidgeting, and talking non-stop about what he did and why and where he got his ideas from.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
2 hours, 17 minutes, Rated R for violence, language, and brief drug use.

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