Running time: 136 mins
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu
Genre: Action, Martial Arts
A year later the second instalment comes along, it’s Vol. V of 20 Years on the QT and the completion of The Bride’s story in Kill Bill: Vol. 2. When the films first came out I had serious issue with both of them but preferred Vol. 1 in a head to head seeing it as the George Foreman in his prime compared to the flabbier “Comeback Foreman” of Vol. 2 but repeat views have altered that opinion…and here it is.
Vol. 1 was a visual thrill ride, sure it’s narrative is almost non-existent and it changed genre and medium like a twelve year old with A.D.D on a sugar high but there's an old saying in TV coined by Joel Surnow (creator of 24) which is "not good, never boring" and it's perfect to sum up Kill Bill: Vol. 1. Vol. 2 started out as though it was going off on the same road with it’s Noir-like opening credits and The Bride (Thurman) addressing the camera but surprisingly that cringe-worthy presentation is short lived. The sequence in the wedding chapel is well shot and there’s some nice interplay between Thurman and Bill (Carradine) who I still find too self aware but it has the feel of a John Ford western with a Touch of Evil inspired crane shot coming away from the chapel as the massacre occurs. It’s a beautiful shot; it’s the Reservoir Dogs ear shot on a much larger budget and it’s one of the reasons why I have no doubt that if Tarantino cut out all the shit and just pictured the film on screen and shot it rather constructed a catalogue of obscure Exploitation set pieces he would make a bona fide masterpiece.
The dialogue of Vol. 2 is a lot less showy and self aware, Bud's conversation with his employer is a perfect example of that line with QT flirts with on a minute by minute basis when he's in front of the typer. Vol. 1 was trying desperately to be a Shaw Brothers’ film, Vol. 2 has found it’s form in
as an out and out western; a good old fashioned “Yee-ha!” cowboy movie – even the
sequences in Japan strengthen it’s feeling as Samurai and Western films are
separated by costume, mise-en-scene and culture more than they ever could be
narratively. The colour palette and
score both work with the film in a way that Vol.
1 lacked and many scenes were incredibly atmospheric. The Paula Schultz sequence is claustrophobic
and tense and though is not as psychologically torturous as, say, The Vanishing it is still a powerful
sequence and has more to it than the previous one hundred and eleven minutes.
Thurman carries the film better than in the previous, maybe it’s because we know a little more about her character but it’s probably more to do with the fact that there’s more of a narrative to this film than in the previous. Where she was physically dominant before she is now dominant on screen and her scenes with Bill (by campfire) and with Pai Mei (Chia Hui Liu) are crucial to any form of pay off and hinge on her acting ability; which she has in spades. Carradine is at his best during the first hour of the narrative; I never bought into the brilliance of Kung Fu but he was been given a role within his wheelhouse and performs admirably. Daryl Hannah is fabulous as Elle Driver not only is she perfectly characterised through her interactions with Bud but you get to learn more about her through The Bride’s scenes with Pai Mei. She’s an uncaring, heartless ass kicker of a blonde and she must have had as much fun performing as Tarantino had writing for her because it’s a serious departure and one that is executed with a level of skill never expected and brought credit that’s never been given to her.
There are moments when Kill Bill: Vol. 2 sags much in the same way of Pulp Fiction in that Tarantino has fallen too deeply in love with his own writing and simply isn’t able to edit the film but that’s something a lot of writer-director’s struggle with (*coughs* M. Night Shyamalan). Even though the Pai Mei sequences come close to absurdity they never leap across that line and anyone who’s watched The Crippled Masters will be able to testify to just how much further it could have went. There are still a plethora of cinematic references in Vol. 2 some of which you’ll know and some you won’t but they genuinely feel more like inspirations than robbery and are stitched together with some excellent and unflashy editing that’s always appreciated. It’s a gutsy, confident and at times sophisticated revenge flicks that manages to serve it’s masters in the West and the East equally and far superior to it’s juvenile predecessor.