Year Released: 2004
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 94 minutes
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The first volume of Kill Bill, Tarantino’s delicious revenge saga was by far my favorite film of 2003. It was a flashy, hip film that left audiences begging for more with a jaw dropper. The first film to this amazing story was great, which of course created high expectations for Volume 2. When leaving the concluding volume of this split story, I was surprised not by what I had seen, but by what I had not seen. While there was intensity the same, we got a score of brilliant dialogue where one expected to see another gauntlet of bloody violence. It’s hard to believe that both films where originally going to be one whole movie, because both volumes have a different attitude among them. Differences aside, the second and final volume to Tarantino’s revenge saga was a magnificent piece of style, one that depended more on developing character and plot than it did violence and carnage, which was all right. The fact that this volume never even tried to top the previous and went along its own path made it much easier to enjoy and get into. With strong character, great writing and some astonishing photography… it’s again one of the best movies of this year. Definitely worth checking out as it provides not only some great movie moments, but also proper closure to what has been a great story.
What Volume 2 lacked in carnage and mayhem, it made up for with enough character and development for both volumes. Tarantino is an impressive writer and a gifted director, and in this film he proves it beyond a reasonable doubt. Some thought that Tarantino would try to top the previous Volume with more bloodshed and a higher body count, which was pretty high in the first film. Instead, Tarantino chose to surprise the audience by taking a very different approach, which was a very gutsy move. Tarantino wrote and directed scenes that were vibrant and full of life as opposed to being full of death. Like in the first film we are again offered the audience a pastiche of genres but this time it’s all packaged around an engaging story, layered in a rich blanket of dark humor. Its character and brilliant writing make up for the film’s lack of action, even though there is still a good bit of high quality action.
The film’s strict attention to character meant the cast had the material to shine and did just that. Uma Thurman is again amazing as the wronged and very vengeful bride. Yet in this volume, we are able to see more than just her bad side. She’s given some great dialogue to work with and allowed to show more emotions besides the rage we saw in her eyes before she unleashed her wrath. She is sent through a diverse roller coaster of emotion, mainly due to the surprise and even love as we reach the end of the film. Her character still had moments of action, but also had key scenes where she was beaten and had to show a little humility. Uma delivers another award worthy performance as I can’t see any other actress ever doing as well as she did with this role.
Volume 2 also benefited from some great supporting actors who are given a chance to excel in roles that were deep, meaningful as well as outright evil all at the same time. Michael Madison is great as Budd; the retired assassin who seemed to be paying a penance is bouncing at bars and full of more remorse over what happened, but still enough of a jackass to defend himself when it’s his turn to face the bride. His character was more honorable than the rest of the assassins who were part of the massacre that took place at the church. It was a great character for Madison to play, his best performance since his previous Tarantino showing as the insane and cold-hearted Mr. Blonde. Another insane and over the top performance was given by Daryl Hannah as the vicious and very corrupted Elle Driver, Bill’s right hand assassin. Hannah is wonderful as her character is just too evil for words to capture. Her lack of morals and deceitful nature makes her almost makes her a bigger villain than Bill. She’s the one character who people are dying for to get killed by the bride, and I am sure many will enjoy the fate she receives at the hands of the Bride.
Then we come to Bill. In the first film, he is heard but never seen. This time out we get to see the man instead of the shadow, and David Carridine is works well with a character that is layered and not as black and white as we first expected. We can see why he’s the leader of this group of vicious killers as his charisma and wit are hard to not be drawn into. We see Bill as more than just the ‘murderous bastard’ and it’s because of Carridine’s masterful handling of this great character. His history with the Kung Fu genre makes Carridine the perfect man for this role. His delivery of some of Tarantino’s best written monologues alone is award worthy, and a performance that would be amazing to see the academy actually notice next season. We see every side of Bill’s personality, and get a real feel for how evil and downright nasty he can be. Even when doing a normal task like making a sandwich seems deliberate and calculating, letting that audience know that despite how human Bill appears to be, he’s still the cold hearted son-of-a-bitch that deserves to die. What I liked most about Bill was the fact that he was fully aware of how outmatched physically by the Bride so he tried an attack that the Bride never saw coming. It made for a quick but unpredictable ending, which was much more satisfying than any clichéd kung fu fight could have been. While some were disappointed with this ending, I thought less was definitely more, making for an approach was just right for this particular scene.
All the credit for this film clearly has to be given to Tarantino. His script and direction are delicious and easy to digest, which is rare for a film that is paying homage to a genre that many consider tacky and over the top. Robert Richardson’s cinematography is flat out spectacular, from the early black-and-white shots of Uma Thurman to the well-cut flashbacks of the Bride’s early training in China. We are given a barrage of stunning background shots that at a touch of beauty to what were some very disturbing scenes. The scenes with Pai Mei are shot in a style that nicely replicates the picture quality of 70s kung-fu movies. They’re also very comical, which I honestly believe was intentional because of the heavy scenes that were surrounding the specific flashback were in need of some serious comic relief. Other magnificent scenes included the mother of all catfights inside Budd’s trailer between Elle Driver and the Bride. It was raw hatred, and had a conclusion that was surprising but fitting. Another jaw dropping scene was a terrific yet horrifying sequence where the screen goes completely dark. There was little or no light during that one particular scene, and it evokes a deadly claustrophobia that will make anyone feel uncomfortable.
Overall, it’s difficult to compare the two volumes to one another because they both entertain its audiences but by different means. The first volume was a non-stop action film and gore fest, while volume two’s wrath and blood is significantly lowered. Quentin Tarantino manages to deliver another stunning work of art, but does it by not repeating what we’ve already seen, instead giving us something new and fresh. Volume two is an amazing follow-up to the bloody and rage filled first installment. It goes in a complete different direction, which I appreciated because it prevented the film from being predictable and much easier to enjoy. It’s one of the best films of this year and is highly recommended for those who not only enjoyed the first film but want to see a film that not only has amazing action, but great direction and writing to boot.
Posted on May 6, 2004 in Reviews by Peter Lowry
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