Kill Bill, Volume 2
November 27, 2004
Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, Chia Hui Liu, Michael Parks, Perla Haney-Jardine, Christopher Allen Nelson, Bo Svenson, Jeannie Epper, Claire Smithies, Clark Middleton, Laura Cayouette, Larry Bishop, Sid Haig, ,
Quentin Tarantino concludes his epic ode to exploitation films with Kill Bill, Volume 2 (2004) and shifts gears visually and thematically. If Volume 1 was a homage to Asian cinema—specifically, martial arts and samurai films—then Volume 2 pays tribute to the western with its Ennio Morricone-esque soundtrack and visual nods to masters of the genre, like Sergio Leone and John Ford. Where Volume 1 was more action-oriented, Volume 2 slows things down. It is more dialogue and character-driven as it takes time to develop its characters and their motivations.
After spending four years in a coma, the Bride (Thurman) regains consciousness and wreaks a bloody rampage of revenge on those responsible. With two down, she has three more to kill, including her mentor, Bill (Carradine). Along the way, we find out what went down that fateful day the Bride and her entire entourage were killed (although, Tarantino never shows the actual massacre, tastefully pulling back so that all we see is the chapel and hear the carnage going on inside). There is also an amusing flashback that shows some of the intensive training the Bride underwent at the hands of Master Pai Mei (Liu). To start things off, she shows him what she knows (or, rather doesn’t know) as he easily bests her in a fight. It is a wonderful nod to classic marital arts cinema with references that will be identifiable to any dedicated fan of the genre.
Volume 2, much like its predecessor, is an unpredictable roller-coaster ride in terms of pacing. The movie starts off as a western but dabbles in several genres. For example, at one point Budd (Madsen) buries the Bride alive in a truly terrifying scene that is right out of a horror film. The screen is completely black and over the soundtrack all that can be heard is her frantic breathing and the loud sounds of dirt being piled onto her coffin. There is a claustrophobic intensity to this scene that is incredible.
There are still some stunning action sequences in this movie with the most amazing one being the showdown between the Bride and her nemesis, Elle Driver (Hannah). They engage in a ferocious, knock-down, drag-out fight in a trailer home that makes perfect use of the tiny interior as the two women use every object and every dirty trick in the book to defeat each other. It is as amusing as it is vicious.
Long relegated to B and C movies, David Carradine finally gets a deliciously meaty role to sink his teeth in as Bill. It’s great to see an actor so hungry for good material finally deliver the goods once he has it. With his weathered good looks and a voice that sounds like slabs of concrete dropped from a great height, he cuts a menacing swath through this movie. Another stand out is Michael Madsen who hasn’t done a film with Tarantino since Reservoir Dogs (1992). Since then he has popped up in the occasional memorable role (Donnie Brasco) but he too has been relegated to forgettable genre films. Madsen does a great job as a washed-up ex-killer with a lifetime of regrets who is now working as a bouncer in a lousy, two-bit strip club. “I don’t dodge guilt,” he says at one point and one has to admire his nobility to face the music for what he’s done in the past.
“The Making of Kill Bill, Volume 2” is a 26-minute featurette that is pretty standard (yet well-made) press kit material with interview sound bites from the cast and crew mixed with clips from the movie itself. Tarantino, ever the animated talker, explains that Volume 1 set up the world and established the mythology, while Volume 2 lets the audience get to know the characters.
“Chingon Performance from the Kill Bill Vol. 2 Premiere” features filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and his band performing music that he composed for the movie. The multi-talented director proves yet again that he’s a jack-of-all trades and can even play a mean guitar lick.
“Damoe Deleted Scene” shows off Bill’s impressive fighting skills as he takes on a group of men whose master he killed. It’s great to see Carradine kicking ass, too bad this wasn’t in the movie!
Kill Bill, Volume 2 is a movie about making choices and dealing with the ramifications of said decisions. The Bride’s decision to give her baby a new life caused Bill to try and kill her. This put all sorts of other events in motion, which both volumes played out in a stylish and entertaining manner. It should be interesting to see how both films fit together when Tarantino combines them, as he has promised, for a definitive version.