Kill Bill: Vol. 2

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Technically, Quentin Tarantino has never done a sequel – except that he has. When the bosses at Miramax mistakenly decreed that a general audience wouldn’t sit still for a genre pic that lasted over four hours (although they were right about Grindhouse), Tarantino’s super-epic love letter to exploitation movies was split in Twain cleaner than if it was sliced by a Hattori Hanzõ sword. While this made the first volume a kill crazy adrenaline rush that blasted the senses with huge, blood soaked set pieces and audacious flourishes that left viewers in a foaming frenzy to see what happened next.
It’s here that that separating of the film finally did The Bride and her roaring rampage of revenge somewhat of a disservice, as QT’s second half was less a slash happy, Eastern themed chunk of comic book lunacy and more of a sedate, laconic western that chooses to settle some of its biggest grudges with words and not violence.

With two people marked off her revenge list permanently, the vengeful ex-assasin known to us as the Bride plots to bring down the final two people who put her in a four year coma and killed her unborn child in order to give a clear run at uber villain Bill – however, there are facts that the Bride is exquisitely unaware of as she goes about her bloody business. As she zeros in of her next target, Bill’s booze sodden, deadbeat brother Bud, she finds herself out maneuvered and fated for an agonising death that threatens to cut her revenge frustratingly short.
As she languishes in a living hell, we get to see her early life with Bill and her cruel training with the incredibly ancient and incredibly spiteful Kung Fu master Pai Mei which gives us the information that she actually has the skills to escape and renew her quest.
Meanwhile, two of her enemies, Bud and the one-eyed psycho Elle Driver, are meeting to discuss the sale of the Bride’s Hattori Hanzõ sword, something the cruel and petty Driver desperately wants. As these two utterly untrustworthy examples of humanity barter while we wait for the inevitable double cross, the Bride emerges from her ordeal to mop up the rest of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, but even if she manages to get past Bud and Elle (who fucking hates the Bride), there’s still the matter of Bill himself.
Wiley, intelligent and horribly seductive, Bill has a few contingencies of his own, not least that the Bride’s daughter is actually still alive and has been raised by Bill over the last four years.
Can Beatrix Kiddo (yup, that’s her name), come out on top in this most epic of examples of getting closure with your ex?

The initial disappointment audiences seemed to vocalise after the release of Volume 2 in 2004 was understandable, if unfair. Noticably less flashy than the first volume, Beatrix’s journey gets more personal and smaller the closer she gets to the epicentre of her pain and her final confrontation with the father of her child is more akin to a melodramatic autopsy of their relationship than anything approaching the day glow excess of the duel with the Crazy 88. I get it, going from Lucy Liu’s O-Ren running the Japanese Yakuza to Michael Madsen being asked to clean the toilets at a low-rent titty bar in Texas is a hell of a come down and audiences thirsting for that big finish must have felt cheated when David Carradine started banging on about flapping fish while cutting the crusts off his daughter’s sandwiches.
However a more sober reassessment of Tarantino’s second, fourth reveals that the movie actually contains many of Kill Bill’s finest moments even if it does admittedly lack the irresistible and relentless drive of the first volume.
You want more (barely) exaggerated references to Asian cinema? Tarantino dives into Hong Kong Kung Fu with the chapter entitled The Cruel Tutelage Of Pai Mei that goes full blown Shaw Brothers territory and gives Gordon Liu huge eyebrows, a hugely strokable beard and a role that brings his career full circle. Elsewhere, the long overdue showdown in Bud’s cramped trailer between dueling blondes Uma Thurman and Darryl Hannah riffs on everything from Raising Arizona to Jackass tops the opening brawl from the first half for reckless brutality and literal toilet humour. Michael Parks, after his role as a Texas ranger, gets a second role as 80 year old gangster pimp and Bill’s father figure, Esteban Vihaio who, despite his polite demeanor, is utterly fucking terrifying.
The movie is packed with gold and obviously this brush with classic western iconography was enough for Tarantino to eventually make not one, but two full blown westerns on the trot.
Even the final confrontation with a loquacious David Carradine gives up all the serpentine charm you need to see exactly why he has such a hold on our heroine and the much discussed meeting between the two, despite the odd flashing sword, some truth serum and the use of something named the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique is nothing more than two people working out their shit after a monumentally nasty break up.
I’ve often wondered how Kill Bill would have been recieved if it had been released in entirety in the first place and while Quentin fused the two to create Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair back in 2011, its only really had limited screening usually hosted by the director himself. Maybe we’ll get it on general release one day if the director makes good on his promise to retire after ten movies, but as it stands, Kill Bill, in whatever form, is still an important milestone in an impressive filmography.

As it stands, yes, Kill Bill: Volume 2 is the noticably weaker of the two when you treat them as separate movies, but that’s not how they were orginally meant to be seen and considering all the cool shit the movie has (Thurman’s performance in this second half is utterly spellbinding and far surpasses the first), to write it off as “more boring” than the previous volume is something that’s simply unfair.
This surprisingly subtle finish to a wildly insane story may not have been what people where expecting at the time, but a closer look reveals a full, beating heart beneath all the Kung Fu references and torn out eyeballs.
Bill settled.

🌟🌟🌟🌟

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