Kill Bill - Volume 2 review by The Grim Ringler
It feels strange to consider Volume 2 a part of the same filmic quilt that gave us the far more violent first film, but perhaps that is the glory of director Quentin Tarantino, that he can tell a tale as deep and engaging as Kill Bill and not once make you feel the heavy weight of homage setting in. And while I wholly admit the splitting of the film makes a lot of sense as far as tone and approach, it does make for an awkward transition were it to be put together. Where the first volume was about the pure hate and rage of the Bride, the second volume is more about the twisting, torturous path that revenge takes. But awkward as it may be in form, this is a truly wonderful volume and finale to a spectacular film.
Set soon after the events of the first volume, KBV2 finds The Bride on the path towards Bill again, the man she had loved and who, in a fevered fit of jealous rage, had tried to kill her. But before she can face Bill The Bride must dispatch Budd, and Elle Driver, two of the four accomplices Bill had when he attacked the Brides wedding rehearsal. And while the going was far from easy with the first two people on her list (Vernita Green and Oren Ishii), the Brides path towards vengeance takes a turn for the worse when she is ambushed by Budd and finds herself being buried alive in another womans grave. The grave though proves to be no match for her we soon come to find as we are shown, in flashback, the extensive training she underwent for Bill. And while Elle and Budd prove to be far from easy foes, her real test comes when she finally is able to face Bill and must also face her past and the realization that the daughter she thought was dead is very much alive and living with her fatherBill.
At its heart, this is still a revenge picture, but, using his love of genres to its fullest, Tarantino has created a film with two personalities that, together, create a very deep story. The first volume was focused on the Brides rage and bloodlust and so the films style took a page from the Kung Fu classics and the Asian revenge epics of the seventies. But this second volume is more interested in the reality of revenge, and the toll it takes on the vengeful and the target. The second volume is all Spaghetti Western and movies as such, less interested in bloodshed than it is in the toll the quest takes on our hero. Because while the Bride still wants nothing more than to avenge her own death (akin to Clint Eastwoods characters in High Plains Drifter or Hang Em High), the reality of her quest is that she is losing what remains of her own humanity as she cuts her bloody swath through her enemies. Because, as Bill gets her to admit after she is drugged with a truth serum, she liked the killing, and fears that she did. And a wonderful thing here that Tarantino has done is he didnt make any of these characters out-and-out evil. Budd is a pathetic loser who cant even keep a job as a bouncer at a raggedy strip club. Elle Driver is the closest we come to a character of pure evil here, but even she is tainted with her envy of the Bride and what she shared with Bill. But who woulda thunk it, deep at the center of this revenge epic sprayed with buckets of arterial blood, there beats a very honest and sweet heart because, as everything winds down, it isnt revenge that pushes the Bride (I wont ruin the reveal of what her real name is but you do find out finally), but salvation, which she might find in her daughter. And it is as if the further along her path she gets, the less interest the Bride has in her quest, wanting more to finish something she has begun more than she wants the blood of her enemies. And mixed with all this anger, angst, and bloodshed is some very sly humor. Most of this humor comes from the Brides tutelage from an ancient Chinese sensei who taught Bill and who will teach the Bride, if she can withstand his brutal training. Using every Kung Fu clich in the book, these scenes are as painful as they are funny, the master taking utter delight in breaking the Brides spirit. There is also a wonderful feeling of a real world, as cartoonish as things may be. The dialogue is exceptionally done and the actors use this script to create people and not characters. Bill truly loves the Bride, and she loves him, and thats the hell of it. That these two people, as in love as they may have been, their world isnt one made for love, but of death. Doomed as their love is though, their daughter, who Bill has raised very well by all accounts, is more than a symbol of that love and is something both are willing to fight and die for.
If I had a major gripe it would be that this just doesnt feel like one film. It feels like two, which isnt a problem here but makes you appreciate all the more why they divided Kill Bill into two volumes. It will be interesting to see how it all fits together. And I am sure many will be angry that the over the top violence of the first film has been replaced with more story and much shorter but equally brutal fights. Hell, that took me aback at first as well but this is such an engaging story that you want to know what it all means.
This really is a great end to a great film. Tarantino takes a lot of flak from the fact that he takes so much inspiration from the films of his youth but hell, he makes that point moot by taking these elements and raising them to a higher form. This isnt just a revenge film, it is a film about a woman fighting to take her life back and she just happens to decapitate a lot of people on the way. But is this Art? Why the hell not? Tarantino has become a very good storyteller and he uses everything to his advantage, be it the music, the violence, the dialogue, the editing, the sound, the casting, or our very certainty about what he is doing. It is easy to damn Tarantino for his quirks and encyclopedic knowledge of geek lore, but how many filmmakers can take their inspirations and create Art from them and elevate that form? Not Lucas, who wallows in his obsession with sci-fi serials to such a degree that he has hamstrung films that are some of the film worlds most beloved. Spielberg did a great job with his Indiana Jones movies but again, they are pulp adventure films and little else. Call him a hack if you will, and hate his films if you must, but obsessed as he may be with his film fetishes, Tarantino has proven again that he is one of the few filmmakers making films today who continues to surprise us with the levels and depth to his films. This aint a perfect film, but its a damn good one.
PS wait for the deluxe DVD box set that is being worked on if you are a fan of the film.
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