Film reviews

Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Dir; Quentin Tarantino, Cert; 18

To read our review of the first installment; click here

With last year’s Vol. 1, Tarantino had created one of the most thrilling cinematic experiences of 2003 with just half a film. Despite the praise the first half received, it was only the beginning and critics saw it as an unemotional, hollow piece of storytelling (albeit a good one). It is in good fortune that Vol. 2 is the composed yang to Vol. 1’s hardcore ying.

The story is a straightforward continuation. Having dispatched the first two on her death list (in the most outrageously cinematic way of course), The Bride (Uma Thurman) seeks out the next three with a vengeance; Budd the alcoholic bouncer (Michael Madsen), Elle Driver the other leggy blonde (Darryl Hannah) and of course Bill (David Carradine).

Tarantino’s previous films before Kill Bill are crime pictures with slight references to genre cinema. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is a step forward from that. It is a whole collage of genre cinema, pasting every visceral form of film onto the screen to create something completely different. It was my favourite film of last year but the critics were right in the judgements. It lacked a story and three-dimensional characters. Vol. 2, on the other hand, is a step sideways bringing forth everything that the first lacked including the misshapen dialogue that the director’s fans will indulge in and of course the Bride’s name which is revealed in a hilarious dreamlike flashback.

In fact, the storytelling lies in the dialogue, which is a complete change from the first volume. The characters speak to each other in an elevated film geek way, filling in the gaps and polishing the details of their history, their beliefs and wisdom. It’s in this dialogue that the primeval plot transforms into an arcane, beautiful piece of art. There are several monologues that surpass the cool of the Ezekial speech in Pulp Fiction, serving as both quotable geek lines and an exchange of ideas and emotions between the characters. Speeches such as this develop the characters and set them up with dimensions that dramatic scenes without dialogue, such as in the first volume, wouldn’t work. Tarantino knows this and avoids any diversions.

There is a very poignant, profound resonance pulsating throughout. In a flashback of the massacre that began the first volume, the audience will be screaming a warning at the Bride, but it’s impossible to help her. Another such instance is right at the end where Bill explains his actions using ‘Superman’ as a metaphor. In the many flashbacks, Bill is shown to have a real relationship with The Bride, which really brings the bitterness of her revenge out.

Let’s not forget that this is ultimately an action film and when and where there is action, Tarantino piles it on by the bucketful. The opponents that the Bride face are not easy and there is a real sense of danger towards her. The fight sequence between The Bride and Elle exceeds any of the fight sequences in the first volume for pure rawness. Tarantino has created the benchmark for what a catfight is, adding his own slapstick and twisted humour on top of it. Another brilliant piece of action comes in the form of an extended flashback which has its own chapter entitled ‘The Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei’. Our yellow haired warrior goes through some vigorous training with the help of Pai Mei, a comic book character with long flowing white hair and eyebrows whose nod towards the chop socky flicks of the 70s is hilariously cheesy, brutal, astounding and rewarding at the same time. This segment is brilliantly made and authentic, as if Tarantino stole a sequence from one of the films he’s paying homage to.

It goes without question that Uma Thurman is astounding and I hope the Academy will not make the mistake of forgetting about her at the Oscars like they did last year. The supporting cast is just as brilliant. This is David Carradine’s best work. With Bill, he eats the screen up with an equal amount of evil and cool spouting dialogue made just for him. Darryl Hannah fits the role of Elle to perfection as every ruthless femme fatale rolled into one with a superb physical performance on top of it in the scene where our heroine battles her. Michael Madsen plays` Budd brilliantly too. Like Bill, he is both loveable as a washed up alcoholic bouncer and a horrible sadist in one scene where he buries The Bride alive that will have claustrophobic's in the audience sweating.

Along with the first volume, this does more than pay homage or copy exploitation cinema. It transcends it, mixing other elements as well as the director’s vivid imagination to create a totally new beast that’s quite unlike anything that cinema has offered to us. Vol. 2 is a completely different film from the first serving to complete the whole saga emotionally rather than repeat the fun of the first. The first half is the set-up, the second half the knockdown. Each half co-exists with the other so it is impossible to say which is the greatest because without one, the other could not exist. However, with both volumes combined, Quentin Tarantino has taken the throne away from Pulp Fiction and created his new masterpiece, which goes straight into my all time favourite films. 10/10

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