Kill Bill Volume 2 (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner19/04/2004

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 136 mins

Eagerly anticipated second ‘volume’ of Tarantino’s stylish, bloody, pulp revenge thriller – longer, more dialogue-heavy and with less cinematic flourishes than Volume 1, but still just about delivering the goods in terms of crowd-pleasing action sequences.

We’ll probably never really know whether the original idea to split Kill Bill into two volumes was Tarantino’s or Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein’s, but the long-awaited release of Volume 2 (by an Astonishing Coincidence, in the same week that Volume 1 comes out on DVD) means that we can finally see for ourselves whether or not it has been worth the wait.

Quest For Bloody Satisfaction Continues

Having hacked and slashed her way through O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) and Vernita Green (Viveca A. Fox) in Volume 1, The Bride (Uma Thurman) continues her quest for “bloody satisfaction”, intending to take out the two remaining members of The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (Daryl Hannah as one-eyed killer Elle Driver and Michael Madsen as Budd) before reaching her ultimate goal, to Kill Bill (David Carradine). Meanwhile, flashbacks fill in the remaining gaps, including a protracted discussion with Bill before the slaughter in the wedding chapel and The Bride’s tutelage at the hands of draconian martial arts master Pei Mei (Gordon Liu).

The overall effect of splitting the film into two volumes has both its good points and bad points. On the plus side, the structure subtly echoes that of the first film, particularly in terms of the strategic placing of the flashback sequences. Similarly, it enabled Tarantino to play out the entire first volume without ever letting us see Bill’s face, which pays off nicely when coupled with David Carradine’s excellent performance here – he completely dominates and overshadows the second volume, ensuring a suitably tense build-up to the final showdown.

Fewer Exciting Set Pieces

However, the split has its drawbacks, too. There’s nothing as exciting as the House of Blue Leaves fight scenes or as original as the Manga flashback sequence. (Fortunately, there’s also nothing as nasty as the hospital rape sequence either). In addition, Tarantino’s directorial hand slips a little, particularly with the over-use of black and white photography: the chapel scene makes sense in black and white, but subsequent scenes seem random and do not.

Similarly, the delayed revelation of The Bride’s real name (bleeped out in the first film and for half of the second) comes as something of a disappointment after such a build-up. However, Tarantino does partially redeem himself with an impressive sequence that – for plot-related reasons - takes place in total darkness; make sure you see the film in a cinema with a state of the art sound system for optimum results.

Tarantino had said that the first film was his ‘Eastern’ and the second his ‘Western’, although the martial arts sequence with Pei Mei belies that comment somewhat. He had also promised that the second would be more dialogue-heavy and sure enough, there’s a return of QT’s ‘trademarked’ dialogue, which basically means that Bill gets to talk about Superman’s secret identity for 5 minutes. There is definitely more verbal humour this time round, including a couple of good jokes at the expense of the dialogue, as Bill acknowledges that his stories do go on a bit.

As for the action sequences, it would be churlish to give too much away (avoid the trailer if at all possible), but suffice it to say that there’s a terrific knock-down, drag-out fight between The Bride and Elle Driver that’s worth the price of admission on its own.

That said, Tarantino takes some pretty big risks in terms of disappointing his audience: he pulls the same trick three times, each time sacrificing audience expectations in favour of surprise developments. (To that end, he also leaves one particular detail annoyingly under-explained – expect to have pub discussions about Budd’s shotgun from now till the DVD release).

Terrific Performances

As for the performances, Carradine is terrific, in a role originally ear-marked for Warren Beatty. (If you think that’s weird, Tarantino intended to play Gordon Liu’s part until mid-way through shooting). Like other recipients of Tarantino’s own brand of career rehab (Travolta, Pam Grier etc), Carradine gives possibly his best ever performance and is easily the best thing in the film – here’s hoping he gets lots more work after this. Thurman is good, though you may find yourself missing her yellow tracksuit as she’s not as iconically kitted out this time round.

As for Madsen, he’s a little disappointing, given how terrifying he has been for Tarantino in the past. However, Daryl Hannah is superb as Elle Driver and her role is fleshed out in several interesting and unexpected ways.

In short, Kill Bill Volume 2 was definitely worth the wait, although it doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of its predecessor. That said, there’s more than enough here to enjoy and at least QT spared us an arse-numbing four hour movie in one sitting.

Film Trailer

Kill Bill Volume 2 (18)
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Content updated: 13/12/2017 11:18

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