Kill Bill: Vol. 2
KJ Doughton, 16 April 2004
In Kill Bill Vol. 1, Uma
Thurman’s Bride hacked her way through half of an elite killing
group known as the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DiVAS). Her
vengeful mission? To kill Bill (David Carradine), cruel leader of
the team and the man who fired a bullet into her brain four years
prior. Kill Bill Vol. 2 chronicles The Bride’s continued
blood-spattered climb up DiVAS’ criminal hierarchy, working towards
its top man. Once a member of Bill’s elite assassin team herself,
she knows that other ex-colleagues must also be dispensed of, like
Michael Madsen’s bloated Budd (AKA Sidewinder) and Daryl Hannah’s
lanky lady pirate Elle Driver (AKA California Mountain Snake).
The second Kill Bill
installment revisits The Bride’s fevered quest, and also resolves
the teasing plot points left dangling from part one. For instance,
what has become of The Bride’s daughter? What does Bill look like?
And why exactly did he shoot The Bride and leave her for dead during
a wedding rehearsal in El Paso, Texas so many years ago?
Kill Bill Vol. 2
immediately answers the last question in its opening black and white
scenes, showing The Bride preparing her wedding to an
underachieving, Texas record store proprietor. Bill crashes the
chapel rehearsal, revealing himself as a suave, flute-playing gent
with cowboy boots and a loaded revolver. Resentful of his
ex-lover’s plans for getting hitched to another man, the boss’ cruel
streak goes into overdrive as he and other DiVA crewmembers massacre
the rehearsal congregation.
After this lengthy prologue, the
film launches us forward in time, picking up after The Bride’s rude
awakening from a four-year coma and her brutal extermination of DiVA
assassins O-Ren Ishi (Lucy Liu) and Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox),
as depicted in Vol. 1. By the time her saga is over,
Thurman’s heroine will endure a shotgun’s blast of rock salt, a live
burial, and the most knockdown, drag-out womano-a-womano catfight
ever filmed. Meanwhile, viewers will revisit her early training at
the hands of Chinese kung fu master Pei Mei (Gordon Liu), where she
is taught the Five-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, a deadly
combat move that The Bride will later use to her advantage on more
than one occasion. Thurman conveys each emotion on this
rollercoaster journey with equally convincing effect, whether it be
the claustrophobic horror of being buried six feet under in a
pine-box coffin, or the surprised joy of discovering a long-lost
Meanwhile, Kill Bill Vol. 2
is full of magnetic villains, complex cartoons who wax philosophical
one minute, then gouge out the eyes of their opponents the next.
This intelligent volatility generates a sustained suspense
throughout the movie. Even during its most delicate or seemingly
benign moments, the threat of danger hums like an electrical current
throughout Kill Bill. Take Daryl Hannah’s Elle Driver, who
almost makes one forget Charlize Theron’s Oscar-snagging turn as
Eileen Wuornos in Monster. Director Quentin Tarantino
completely extracts the tentative sweetness that Hannah brought to
Roxanne and Splash, replacing it with the nasty,
hardened heart of a traitor willing to poison her mentor, or sick a
snake on a one-time squeeze. All golden hair, rock-star smoker’s
lips, and black eye patch, Hannah’s statuesque witch permanently
burns her scowl into viewers’ brains.
Madsen is equally good as Budd, the
trailer-inhabiting bouncer employed at a Barstow, California strip
club so empty and remote that there’s no one around to bounce.
Wasting away in a desert hovel where he drinks margaritas from glass
canning jars, Budd still has the attuned, hyper-vigilant senses of a
wary wolf. This bloated brother of Bill – long since estranged
from the sibling over a woman – can sniff out a silent stalker and
pelt her with a blast of firepower to the chest. Shades of Madsen’s
sinister Reservoir Dog Mr. Blonde, Budd is a playful torture artist.
“Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey,” he croons, rousing an enemy from
sleep only to bury her alive moments later. Using silent, subtle
tongue movements and squints, Madsen cues us into the fact that
Budd’s pickled synapses are still firing, without giving away
exactly which sinister thoughts are twisting in his brain. Like all
of Tarantino’s best villains, Budd’s unpredictable, sickly-sweet
creepiness is both funny and terrifying.
The malevolent spirit of
Carradine’s Bill towered over Kill Bill Vol. 1, even though
his face was never shown. A hand caressing a sword case, and his
eloquent, menacing voice were enough to paint him larger-than-life.
This time around, Carradine and Tarantino throw viewers a curve ball
and break the rules, showing the ruthless man’s redeemable human
side while reminding us of his violent capabilities. In one amazing
scene, Carradine makes sandwich assembly seem both artful and
intimidating, dipping his knife into mustard then slicing off bread
crusts the way he might carve up a victim, waxing philosophical
about life and death all the while. Bill emerges as the film’s most
complex character, a man who regrets his past, even as he
realistically faces up to it. “I over-reacted,” Bill tells The
Bride, explaining why he shot her in the head. “There are
consequences to breaking the heart of a murderous bastard.” All the
while, his self-defense skills equal those of Carradine’s seventies
television hero Caine, from Kung Fu.
Cinemaphiles will have a field day
dissecting which movies Tarantino has lifted from, referenced, and
paid homage to in Kill Bill Vol 2. Ever since film critics
cried foul over his alleged cribbing of the Reservoir Dogs
heist plot from Ringo Lam’s obscure Chinese actioner City on Fire,
viewers have delighted in determining the inspirations for the
director’s subsequent films, scenes, and characters. An obvious
influence on Kill Bill is Japanese shockmeister Takashi Miike.
No only did Volume 1’s bodyguard Go Go resemble a similar
schoolgirl-assassin from Miike’s Fudoh – The Next Generation,
but a scene from the second Bill outing, filmed from inside a
toilet bowl, has much in common with a potty shot from City of
Lost Souls. (Fortunately, Tarantino spares us the floating turds
that framed Miike’s version.)
Kill Bill Vol. 1
was a pure action movie, in love with collisions of violent
movement. Vol. 2 relaxes the pace, allowing for extended
monologues. Those who lamented the first film’s lack of wicked word
exchanges should delight in Carradine’s final soliloquy, which
touches on everything from the life and death struggle of a goldfish
to the mythology of Superman.
From the adrenaline-spewing
swordplay of his movie’s's first half, Tarantino ultimately spins a
tale of love, reflection, and parenthood. The director is everything
that Hollywood cinema needs right now, able to find art in seemingly
antiquated genres and toss out fresh images the way Spiderman shoots
webs. Kill Bill finds Tarantino at the top of his
rebel-rousing game, with both guns blazing and taking no prisoners.
R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
parent or adult