A Film Review By The Mike
Rating:R for Violence and Language
Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Allow me to start my review of Kill Bill, Volume 2 by saying one thing about the film. It could be viewed as a spoiler, but it’s not important to the plot, it’s simply an observation that I couldn’t help noting repeatedly when leaving the theater. If you don’t want a future viewing to be tarnished, don’t read any further. Just go see it, and come back to this later.
No sword lacerations were made in this movie.
That’s right. None. The follow-up to a film that featured more severed limbs than a chainsaw party in the woods features not a single slice of a sword into human flesh (OK, there might have been a really small one….but it’s close enough). In fact, only two onscreen deaths occur. To say that the tone of Volume 2 differs drastically from Vol. 1 is like saying that rain falls from the sky. It’s that obvious.
Kill Bill’s second volume plays out with only a fraction of the martial-arty goodness of its predecessor, instead often seeming more like one of Sergio Leone’s westerns, thanks mostly to some great musical touches by Robert Rodriguez (of Desperado fame), including a lot of Ennio Morricone’s music from Leone’s films. I expected the whistling of the theme from “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” at any moment, but apparently that’s where Tarantino and Rodriguez drew the line. The film also meets Leone’s scope in several desert scenes, making us forget we’re watching a film about a deadly martial artist and sword handler for long stretches at a time. I never expected a Tarantino film to be shot like this.
I should have expected it, having seen his wonderful camerawork in earlier films like Reservoir Dogs. But I shortchanged the “genius” everyone’s been raving about, not thinking he could pull off anything with a bigger setting than a warehouse, a night club, or a drug dealer’s apartment. For that, I apologize. Tarantino’s direction here is his finest to date, and among the finest I’ve seen so far this year.
The story isn’t much more complex than the first volume’s, but it seems to move with more ease at times. There are still slow moments, like the first volume, but they don’t hinder the film at all. These two films are fueled by anticipation, and the slow moments only kept me interested in what was coming next, kept me waiting to see what The Bride would run into next, and kept me longing for more of the ensuing carnage. The logic behind sequels has always been that “the ante must be upped”, or that “the body count must be higher.” Kill Bill, Volume 2 is the opposite.
I know what you’re thinking: “How does a longer movie with less violence about a character that killed many dozen in a predecessor that’s more violent than any film we’ve seen that didn’t feature Jesus work?” To answer, it does so through a little bit of characterization, a little bit of solid acting, and a whole lot of that aforementioned anticipation.
The acting, which I mentioned in passing just then, deserves more credit than I’ve given it. Uma Thurman’s Bride is back and kicking, with much more dialogue and much less sword play than the previous installment. She still manages to kick some booty when needed, along with showing humanity and range as an actress in the rest of her scenes. She loses the spotlight often, however, as David Carradine’s Bill takes over. Carradine plays the part with such flair that we almost feel we should be rooting for him, despite his evil roots that sealed his fate from the opening of the first film. Daryl Hannah and Michael Madsen also shine in their roles, outshining the assassins from Volume 1 in every way. It’s a near flawless job by the entire cast.
Kill Bill, Volume 2, at least to me, is a rare instance in which a sequel upstages its predecessor in every possible way. Tarantino’s direction keeps the film going, and keeps us interested in every scene, as we follow The Bride on her path of revenge. Sure, it’s not the most suspenseful film, and it still suffers from some of the same maladies in script and depth as the first film. But that didn’t effect me one bit. Volume 1 was all about the action, and Volume 2 is all about the story. Together, they work wonderfully, but in the future, I’ll look back on Volume 1 as a supplement to a better work.
Will the change in style be enough to sway the detractors, who didn’t care for the first film? I think it might, and I think that anyone who goes into this film with an open mind will surely get something worthwhile out of it. Kill Bill Volume 2 is more than a sequel or conclusion. It’s a great film.