“Vol. 2” is also a perfect way to conclude this labyrinthine story from Tarantino, and the sheer radiance of the filmmaking could give eyesight to the blind.
Having just awoken from a 4-year coma, The Bride (Uma Thurman) sets out to exact revenge on the five individuals (former co-workers, to be exact, from an elite team known as “The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad”) who tried to kill her on her wedding day. “Vol. 2” consists of The Bride meeting up with sadistic Texan, Budd (Michael Madsen), finding herself buried deep into trouble and remembering her time with martial arts master Pai Mei (Gordon Lui), where she honed her substantial skills. Then there’s Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), a single-minded assassin who wants The Bride dead no matter the cost. After writing out her “Death List Five,” The Bride is slowly making her way to the team leader, Bill (David Carradine, finally onscreen), who is looking forward to his second chance to kill The Bride.
The original idea (albeit brief) was to release “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” 6 weeks after “Vol. 1” opened last October. Then a February date was selected, but not in stone. Now, 6 months later, we finally get to see just what happens to The Bride and her “Death List Five.” However, there’s no more list in “Vol. 2,” and no Crazy 88 bloodbath. Writer/director Tarantino has taken this unusual opportunity to split his original film into two parts very earnestly, creating a “Vol. 2” that is almost a completely different experience than “Vol. 1.”
Since the opening of “Vol. 2” is actually the midway point in Tarantino’s screenplay, audience members who are looking for the same type of thrill ride that “Vol. 1” provided will be slightly unnerved at the lack of a kick in the film‘s opening act. “Vol. 2” takes a good hour to really ramp up to the energy level that the first film solely dieted on. Detractors that complained about the absence of Tarantino’s dialog should be pleased though, as “Vol. 2” is made up almost entirely of Quentinesque speeches (on the nature of the Superman/Clark Kent identity crisis for example) and retorts. So much so, that the action that was such a cornerstone of the first film, is barely a feature in the picture, and certainly not in the conclusion.
Fear not though, Tarantino does bring out the heavy artillery when it comes time to throw down, including a brawl between The Bride and Elle Driver in a tiny trailer parked in the middle of the desert. The two ladies go after each other like rabid dogs, smashing heads into walls, unable to unsheathe their swords due to the low ceiling, and ending up in the bathroom, covered in toilet water, blood, and tobacco spit (don’t ask). It‘s a humdinger, and returns that visual and visceral contact high that “Vol. 1” built a tower of greatness on. I would even say that, while less violent than the first film, “Vol. 2” is twice as brutal, with Tarantino acutely detailing the hardships faced by The Bride on her trip to see the sadistic martial arts master Pai Mei, and the Elle fight, which ends with an unbelievable conclusion that you won‘t, ahem, see coming.
“Vol. 2” also features a deceleration on the berserk visuals of “Vol. 1.” Where Tarantino was playing tribute to his grindhouse and kung-fu flick youth in the first film, “Vol. 2” is more of a spaghetti western and cockeyed domestic drama. The new film has Tarantino playing with black and white photography more, and electing to use desert and tropical vistas to backdrop the story. The pace of the film is slower as well; the pure and simple revenge philosophy in “Vol. 1” is now greatly complicated as The Bride learns more about the situation with Bill and the child she believed was lost during her coma. The bullet train-like momentum of the first film is missed, but Tarantino has replaced that with a more classic filmmaking atmosphere, making “Vol. 2” the more stirring of the two films, but clearly the least caloric.
Tarantino has been saddled with the reputation of being a kind of voodoo witch doctor when it comes to reviving careers of his beloved stars of yesteryear. That isn’t fair to say about the filmmaker, but it’s hard to argue with the results. Quite simply, former “Kung-Fu” star Carradine is a force of nature in “Vol. 2,” turning in the performance of his lifetime. He’s astonishing as the titular creep, bringing deeply seeded believability to his snake-like ways regarding The Bride as well as proving himself well on the action front. Who knows what Carradine can do now with this role clearly showing he still has the goods. In this brief shining moment however, he is the man of nightmares, and provides damn fine reasons why The Bride should complete the quest of the title.
If there’s anything left to be said about the luminous Thurman after “Vol. 1,” it’s this: she’s even better in “Vol. 2.” As with Carradine, this is simply a stunning performance. Thurman has a way of making her whole body quake with emotion that is utterly jaw dropping to behold. Tarantino brings out the best in her, and working here with a little more dramatic fat, Thurman doesn’t skip a beat. Just watch her face as she goes under the “cruel tutelage” of Pai Mei. You’ve never seen an actress deliver a performance of pure pain like this before. Where is her Oscarr
Throw in a familiar Tarantino face in a cameo, some more brilliantly chosen soundtrack cuts and an exquisite climax to the film (not with words, but with a pure expression of emotion), and Tarantino has nailed a perfect conclusion to his magnum opus. I’m sad to see it go, but I’m even more relived to see it concluded properly.Rating: A+