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Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (2004)
Uma Thurman .... The Bride/Black Mamba
David Carradine .... Bill (Snake Charmer)
Michael Madsen .... Budd (Sidewinder)
Daryl Hannah .... Elle Driver (California Mountain Snake)
Chia Hui Liu .... Johnny Mo/Pai Mei (as Gordon Liu)
Michael Parks .... Esteban Vihaio
Perla Haney-Jardine .... B.B.
Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino.
Note: This review reveals some of the movie’s secrets, so you might prefer to see the movie before reading the review.
Kill Bill, Vol. 2 is a worthy sequel to the first installment, whatever that means.
Uma Thurman is back as the Bride, the sexy Ninja assassin hell-bent on killing Bill, her former employer.
Kill Bill 2 grabbed my attention, and did not let go. It is fantastic to look at. The movie looks great, and this gives it its authenticity and credibility.
Uma Thurman has real star power, here more than ever before. We see her constantly up-close, her beauty, and her intensity. But I wish she appeared in a vehicle that tested her dramatic range better. She seems seduced by the avant-garde glamour of appearing as Tarantino's star.
David Carradine has presence as Bill. He is wise and formidable, a worthy villain. There is something tragic about the situation: an accidental pregnancy, and Beatrix Kiddo (the Bride's unlikely name) only wants to quit the ninja assassin business so as to raise her child in a normal environment. For Bill, this is a waste of Kiddo's "gift" to be an assassin. In a vivid monologue, Bill compares Kiddo to Superman and other superheroes. He cannot believe that Kiddo could have been content with a normal life, working in a small-town Texas record shop. Carradine frames Kill Bill for us: Beatrix is a superhero, so we should sit back and enjoy the ride, and not think about it too much, because Kill Bill is really just a comic book set to the screen.
Their climactic scene with their daughter echoes the opening scene from volume 1, when Vernita Green and Beatrix also confront each other in the presence of a child and postpone violence for the child's sake. But the atmosphere remains charged with violence. We watch Bill preparing their daughter a bologna sandwich, using a large French knife to cut it, and we are aware that Beatrix's hair-trigger nerves are on alert.
Tarantino again works in a few non-chronological scenes to good effect. In the opening scene (probably added after the decision to release Kill Bill in two parts), we see Beatrix driving toward Bill's, thereby revealing that she has already dispatched the other enemies on her list. So we know that she will survive everyone between her and Bill. This actually makes it more enjoyable for us to watch the scenes where she is buried alive, or has to fight Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah).
Tarantino wisely spares us certain scenes, especially the El Paso wedding massacre itself. But he still pushes new ground in traumatizing his audiences. The buried alive scene is well done, as is Beatrix tearing out Elle's eyeballs.
Darryl Hannah shines as a villain. We are glad to learn why she wears an eye patch. She commits the greatest crimes of honor, killing both Pai Mei and Budd (Bill's brother, an expert swordsmen, now gone to seed). However inspired of a casting choice, it again reveals Tarantino's essential plasticity. Why is she so evil to insult Pai Mei and also to kill Budd (Michael Madsen)?
I found Kill Bill 2 to be as engrossing as a movie can be, but I cannot treat it like other movies. Here we have a talented director, working with full license and at the peak of his powers, but he can only deliver a riveting comic book. It is more pulp fiction. Granted, a director who is aware that he is making pulp fiction, and can do so with such relish and flair is worth more than most directors, but will Tarantino ever shoot for more, for film, for art? Watching his movies is like watching a precocious child perform the same trick over and over. You wish he could learn new things.
28 April 2004