Kill Bill - Volume 2
Quentin Tarantino’s revenge play began its trek in “Volume 1” with a difficult - however charmingly simple - story that left the film equally lacking in both context and subtext. Given the scope of violence perpetuated by the central team of assassins in the picture (most notably in the authoress of the group’s comeuppance, played by Uma Thurman) without a justifiable moral code explained, the film was left somewhat in a floundering state for critical acclaim. Those concerns – and more – Tarantino overcomes in the final chapter of the larger film, delivering a masterpiece which stands quite possibly alone as the most thought-provoking denouement of his film generation.
The irony is that much like his film, there would seem to be something utterly sweet and simple in the intentions of Tarantino as a filmmaker. The story of “Kill Bill” is as accessible as any modern day action film, as technically wondrous as any CGI-based monolith, as stylish as retro can be, and as heartfelt as the best of the medium’s truest classics. What “Volume 1” promised, “Volume 2” serves up with panache.
“The Bride” – now provided the name Beatrix – continues on her mission to infiltrate the heart of the killer ring of her former colleagues, dealing death in return for a wedding-day shooting which robbed Beatrix of her child and landed her in a coma. In this sequel she must fight through Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah) and Budd (Michael Madsen) before following through on the film’s title – and possibly reclaiming her daughter, whom in the final moments of “Volume 1” we discovered survived Beatrix’s near-death.
Madsen turns in a smoking performance, although his character is somewhat of a filtered version of his usual drawling, rough-hewn model. Hannah is more of a surprise, plowing into the picture with a gutsy, angular portrayal of Elle (seen in brief spurts from “Volume 1” but finally hitting hard in the second film). The character’s eye patch makes nary a dent in Hannah’s razored expressions – if “Kill Bill” marks the jubilant return of Tarantino, it also marks the fiery return of Darryl Hannah. She is pure sinful delight, every second of her another form of nasty, succulent dessert.
But this picture appropriately belongs to Uma Thurman and David Carradine – the latter plays Bill, finally free of camera obfuscation and deviously out in the open. The two actors share a chemistry on screen unparalleled in modern film, their strategic maneuverings as fun to watch as the picture’s direct combat. Ultimately, the movie explores their turbulent relationship prior to and during the events told in the “Kill Bill” saga; it is beautifully complex, full-bodied and nuanced, a love/hate relationship that could not defy its inevitable conclusion any more than the human body could defy breathing.
What’s eminent about the picture beyond its plotting, however, is the stylistic urges of its auteur. Tarantino continues blending pop culture from multiple time periods and locales with calculated abandon, indelibly creating, from the ashes of religions and fabrics gone by, a physiognomy for his work that is elegantly unique. Pacing is surreal and languid, with perceptive hangovers from the Asian influence of the first film interwoven with idioms and characteristics of the American West - cultures not dissimilar, and rendered surprisingly hip for mass appeal. And in Tarantino’s world, subtext has always reigned; revenge may be best served cold, but the driving, destructive nature of the human forces which conceived its ordained path - those are hot as coals, and true as hell.
The DVD features a documentary on the making of the film, which is actually fascinating not just from the point of view of the story behind the remarkable performances... but also because it traces some of the pop culture influences you’ll see in the movie. Tarantino is arrogant in his interviews, but the man is a fantastic filmmaker with a veritable juggernaut on his hands - who can blame him?
One of the more interesting elements of the features is the single deleted scene, placed unadorned on the DVD with no introduction or explanation as to why it was cut. It’s not the most dramatic scene in the film - in fact it’s rather funny to watch - and if this was the only sequence cut, it’s a statement on the determined abilities of the director.
I wished for a director’s commentary, however, and the CHINGON performance at the premiere didn’t satisfy my cravings.