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Kill Bill, v.2

I really, really wish I could have seen Kill Bill vol. 1 again before I went into vol. 2. Though Tarantino gives us enough background so that those who missed the first round aren't utterly lost, it would have been nice to have the refresher. So those of you who plan to see Kill Bill vol. 2, (as well you should) go out and find a copy of the recently released DVD of vol. 1 and settle in with some jiffy-pop.

Kill Bill is a revenge movie…I say movie singular, because vol. 2 is not a sequel, it's a second half of a really long movie. Our heroine is known only as "The Bride," played by Uma Thurman, a lovely young woman whose wedding is shot up by a man from her past - the titular Bill. In vol. 1, she awakes from the coma that Bill left her in, and goes on a systematic rampage, hunting down and slaying those who wronged her.

I could go on and on about how much I loved it, but I'm supposed to be reviewing vol. 2 here. 2 picks up roughly where 1 left off, however with Tarantino's non-linear storytelling style, there's still plenty of temporal shifting going on. We're filled in on more details of the wedding gone awry, and the relationship between the Bride and Bill is further fleshed out. In fact, there is a huge amount of exposition in this one, especially as compared to vol. 1. The first film seemed like a physically violent warm-up to the more emotionally brutal action of vol. 2.

The Bride is put through many layers of hell, only the least of which involve pain, and Thurman's fear and anguish are palpable and resonant. In a scene that will bring out the claustrophobia in everyone, the Bride has a few moments of quality panic that can't help but quicken the pulse. That or I'm a bit too susceptible to depictions of enclosed spaces…I won't even go to submarine movies anymore.

There's a whole lot less ass kicking that goes on in vol. 2, and I can't say I don't miss it, but Tarantino's flair for dialog and humor more than makes up for it. In fact, that would be the widest separation between the two films. While vol. 1 was chock-full of stunning battles, masterful swordplay, and tributes to the classics of Asian action cinema, it lacked character development and depth. The Bride was out to kill the people who killed her. That was all the reason we needed.

In vol. 2 however, the history behind Bill and the Bride's relationship is explored. We also learn some of the background of the Deadly Viper Assassin Squad, how they were trained, and who they really are to each other. Tarantino deftly weaves together the past and present, and with the exception of a pun-bomb dropped in the second act, shows uncharacteristic restraint in his storytelling. This leaves room for the richness of Thurman's performance to come through without getting tangled up in heavy-handed direction.

In fact, this is a wonderful showcase for Thurman. Up until Kill Bill vol. 1, I'd never been much of a fan of hers. Maybe it was my "short/slightly pudgy girl" body image, but I could never connect with the willowy Thurman. Then again…it could just be a long standing grudge against The Avengers…and Batman and Robin, oh and Gattaca. Yeesh! Anyway…all is forgiven. I most definitely appreciate her now. She's damn, damn good in this, and anchors the movie with a still, focused rage. There's an element of Zen calm within her that propels her through her mission, and becomes even more evident when it slips, and she struggles to reclaim it. It's probably wishful thinking, but I'm pulling for an Oscar nod here.

One thing I've always appreciated about Tarantino is his gift for pulling great performances out of his actors. Everybody is great in this - David Carradine as Bill delivers a wry, personable performance that almost makes you want to forgive him for being a murderous bastard.

Darryl Hannah, the ageless and underused (at least in good movies) burns in her scenes as Elle Driver, A.K.A. California Mountain Snake, and her gleeful hatred of the Bride makes their battle scene oh so much fun. Though most of the characters in this lil' epic have some emotional problems, they're all more or less sane. Elle is truly psychopathic, and she makes for a fascinating wild card.

There are some very minor flaws. There are bits where it veers into excessive exposition and babble, and Thurman's opening monolog - which I assume to be some sort of homage to something I'm not film-geek enough to get - is a little stilted. But overall, I had a great time. Refresh your memory with Kill Bill vol. 1, and then see vol. 2. It's some good cinema!


Marin Carpenter

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