NOW PLAYING: Kill Bill Vol. 2

Posted: Monday, April 19, 2004

Quentin Tarantino and Harvey Weinstein, the head of Miramax, made a big deal about the "last-minute" decision to break Tarantino's fourth film, Kill Bill into two parts. At the time, the reason seemed to be that the audience wouldn't be able to handle a four-hour foray into the constant comic brutality of 70's Asian cinema, and they'd have been right. However, after seeing Vol. 2, I realize that these are two completely separate movies and the concept of the sequel plays right into Quentin's homage to the movies he loved as a child. Different in tone, in theme, and in sound, Kill Bill Vol. 2 attempts, and attains, a far loftier goal than its predecessor, melding exploitation with true emotion and heart.

Both Vol. 1, and Vol. 2 are masterworks. Technically, Tarantino achieves everything he wants to. He seems to be hampered by nothing but his own twisted imagination. However, Vol. 2 stands out as a much more satisfying story, and really does not rely on Vol. 1 to make sense. It begins with Uma Thurman, the Bride, on her way to find Bill and fulfill the promise of the title. Along the way, however, she must cut her way through Budd (Michael Madsen), former assassin but now broken-down bouncer. Madsen captures perfectly the character of a man whose best days are behind him. Bill, his brother, and he have had a falling out, and Budd sees a chance in our heroine to rise from the ashes. She's also got to make her way through Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), her remaining former teammate and one of the deadliest women alive. Elle is Bill and Budd's sister, and this family dynamic plays a role in the emotional tone of the film as a whole, though not in the way you might think.

As the film proceeds from fight to fight, trial to trial, you are keenly aware of the element missing from Vol. 1. You care about these people. The first film doesn't ask you to care and, in most cases, you don't. Here the violence is more intimate and the dialogue more stirring. We are given more of the character of Bill, wonderfully played by David Carradine. He's a father figure, a mystic, a lover and, in his words, a murdering bastard. It was intensely satisfying to finally get to know the man who has held such sway over the events of this epic saga of revenge. Not only does his character make Vol. 2 work, but it retroactively adds depth to Vol. 1. Through it all, however, as good as the supporting cast are, no one can hold a candle to Thurman who plays her character's single-mindedness with a grace and passion rarely seen. The Bride is a character dreamed up by Thurman and Tarantino years earlier, and it is obvious no one else could have played her.

Kill Bill is an anomaly, and one that may spell awards when next year rolls around. Superb acting and directing come together to create what is essentially a gold-plated pork rind. Tarantino has achieved, with these two films, what I think he's always been attempting: the perfect combination of true art, true trash, and true drama into a film that can be enjoyed and respected by film geeks across the spectrum. Bravo! Grade: A

Kill Bill Vol. 2 is rated R for graphic violence and language,

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