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Kill Bill Volume 2

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Kill Bill Volume 2

Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Rated: R
RunTime: 136 Minutes
Release Date: April 2004
Genres: Action, Martial-Arts, Thriller




Review by Harvey Karten
3½ stars out of 4

"Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2," which could emerge as a trilogy, is so taut, with so much variety in its picturesque cinematography, so cleverly stylized in its dialogue, that both volumes could have gone down quite easily with its audience in just a single sitting. But popcorn and soda must be sold, which means that Quentin Tarantino's blockbuster film, so energetic and yet so subtle, has been split almost evenly into two parts rather than enjoying an exhibition just once in its 247-minute glory. There is a difference, however, Volume 1 concentrating on action over dialogue, particularly on the the great Crouching-Tigerish scene of The Bride's (Uma Thurman) fighting off eighty-eight men and women, all of whom for purposes of the fiction would have nothing to do with guns but who go into combat with swords and sticks. "Variety" magazine reports that Volume 1 picked up $70 million in the U.S. and $108 internationally, which does not come up to the worldwide celebrity status of Mel Gibson's "Passion" but ironically may not have climbed well beyond the $200 million mark because Volume 1 (like Volume 2) is so darn clever.

Viewers who may have missed the first part (though that's available now in DVD format) are brought up to date in the opening, black-and-white segment, evoking The Bride's desire to kill Bill who had put the Bride into a four-year coma after she, having discovered she was pregnant with Bill's baby, bolts from Bill's assassination squad. The opener features the sort of stylized dialogue you're not likely to see in any actual, contemporary wedding--between Bill (David Carradine), who shows up at a dress rehearsal for The Bride's wedding. Rather than generate a violent showdown as you might expect in a commercialized movie like "The Punisher" he instead has a laid-back discussion before being introduced to the prospective groom as The Bride's father.

"Kill Bill," filmed by Robert Richardson in Beijing, the L.A. area, and a Mexican village, has cartoonish violence as a springboard to Tarantino's delightfully sharp, non-naturalistic dialogue, this second part concentrating far more on character development as opposed to its predecessor's glorying in fight scenes. This sequel, which could garner Oscar nominations for both Uma Thurman and David Carradine, takes us step by step into The Bride's journey with destiny. Having killed off all the assassins that Bill had sent to her to avenge her leaving his assassination squad, The Bride has only a few scrofulous characters to get rid of before she can again confront the talkative story-teller who is out to finish his job before she can complete hers. Therein lies some of the truly bright moments of the movie.

The scenes are delineated in a Brechtian style, each given a chapter heading and a name. Arguably the best scene unfolds from a flashback showing The Bride's relationship with the Chinese martial arts expert, Pai Mei, nicknamed "The Master Killer" (Gordon Liu), who sits atop a rocky hill like an Indian guru, sporting an extensive white beard which he regularly and lovingly grasps with his hands to toss aside, and the largest eyebrows this side of former coal-mine union organizer John L. Lewis. Bill, who has set up the class between his protege and the master, warns her that he hates Caucasians, Americans and women. Declaring that he would happily call her "master" if she could hit him but once with her sword, The Master easily retains his title, in one terrific shot actually leaping high into the air and landing with one leg atop The Bride's sword.

The most horrifying scene involves the sort of death you might not wish on your worst enemy, but the one chosen for The Bride by Bill's trailer-trash brother,Budd (Michael Madsen who comes across as the epitome of a gun-toting Texan determined that his shotgun would be wrested out of his hand only over his dead body. Disarming The Bride with a blast, he proceeds to bury her alive, motivated in part by the wishes of The Bride's arch-enemy, the one-eyed Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) who has quite the surprise for Budd when she arrives at his trailer to buy his Hatori sword for one million cash, while Tarantino ups the ante by introducing a catfight between the two rivals, The Bride and Elle. (The Bride's method of defeating her opponent could signal to some that being buried alive may not be the worst way to go after all.)

As Roger Ebert points out in his article on movie cliches, one of the oldest in the book is to have the villain talk instead of shooting, thereby turning the tables in favor of the hero. While in the final showdown, The Bride and Bill could easily have dispatched their opponent with a single shot, The Bride enjoying one-upmanship in entering Bill's luxurious Mexican abode while taking a back-seat when Bill gets one-up on her. This time, though, we're not sitting through the type of hackneyed scene in which we're tempted to yell to the screen, "Shoot him now or you'll be sorry," since the dialogue, more particularly Bill's monologue to her, is so richly textured including commentary on comic book heroes like Superman and about an invention of Bill's, a dart which contains twice the amount of truth serum as a typical shot of sodium pentathol.

Uma Thurman ultimately makes a place in cinema history as one of the great female action adventurers in a film that combines witty banter, a literal eyeball- crushing battle, swordplay that may be a knockoff from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" but is awesome nonetheless, and a pic that shows Tarantino's ability to mediate among Chinese, Mexican and American crews.

Copyright 2004 Harvey Karten

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