Dir: Quentin Tarantino.US. 2004. 136 mins.
Rather like ThePassion Of The Christ, weknow how Quentin Tarantino's four-hour-plus epic Kill Bill will end. Yes, plot spoiler ahead, she killsBill. The pleasure, of course, comes in the journey, and, in contrast to thehigh style and stylized action of Vol 1, Vol 2 is as seductive for its verbose drama as much for its brilliantfight sequences.
Talky and character-driven,languorous yet emotionally charged, Vol 2 completes the story of The Bride who now has a name (Beatrix Kiddo) asshe wreaks revenge on Bill and his troupe of assassins who slaughtered herwedding party in a chapel in El Paso and left her in a coma which lasted fouryears.
But Kill Bill, seen as a complete vision, is so much more thanstylish homage or simple revenge story. Like an over-imaginative child creatinga fantasy world of characters and history, Tarantino has put to film an entiremythology, a crime saga so fantastical and rich in delicious details that fanswill cry out for more.
When seen as one film, whichno doubt umpteen DVD sets will ensure, Kill Bill will be remembered as a grand achievement - an opussomewhere between The Godfatherand The Lord Of The Ringstrilogies, by way of countless Asian film series. If the first film gave theimpression that Kill Bill was afrothy flight of fancy, the second film will guarantee it gets a more seriousappraisal in the future.
Fans of Vol 1 will naturally flock to Vol 2, which exceeds the running time of its predecessorby 26 minutes. Whether the film can match the $70m domestic gross or the $107minternational gross of Vol 1might depend on the competition in the marketplace which will be full ofheavyweight pictures by the time it opens in a fortnight. But Kill Bill's real value will come on DVD and video where thetwo films will reap their greatest rewards and seal their legacy.
Kicking off in black andwhite with The Bride talking to camera on her way to enact the killing of thetitle, Tarantino then ducks back to a more thorough enactment of the fatefulwedding day in Texas. Or wedding rehearsal, we are told, since bride and groomwere merely getting a briefing from the local pastor (Walking Tall II's Bo Svenson) when Bill and his Deadly ViperAssassination Squad come to town.
Here begins one of the manyconversation pieces in the film - a long discussion between Bill (Carradine)and Beatrix (Thurman) on the porch of the chapel. Neither has seen the other inmany months and Beatrix, who has recreated herself as Arlene and is working inher fiance's used record store, is counting on her former lover, master andemployer not to disrupt the proceedings. The exchange is intense and lasts forseveral minutes, lingering on body language, eye movements and verbal nuance torelay the obvious history between the two.
As Vol 2 proceeds, several more long conversations take place- between Bill and his brother Bud (Madsen), between Bud and Elle Driver(Hannah), between Beatrix and Esteban Vihaio (Parks) and on three separateoccasions between Bill and Beatrix, most notably in the final stretch of thefilm when the two are reunited. If Vol 1 was all action, Vol 2 isall talk and Tarantino's confidence with dialogue, camera and actors is sostrong that he enjoys dwelling on these scenes.
They are indeed strangelymesmerizing. And not just because of his characteristically smart-ass,reference-filled anecdotes, which are there in abundance - a lengthy monologuefrom Bill about the massacre of a brotherhood of monks, another one on thedifference between Superman and other superheroes and one from Vihaio aboutBill as a child watching The Postman Always Rings Twice. But the chronology ofthe drama is all so cleverly mixed up that they also contain dramatic expositionand, in the final Beatrix/Bill showdown, a good deal of emotion.
Unlike Vol 1, which had a largely Asian flavour, Vol 2 is chiefly set in the US and Mexico and seesTarantino pay homage to Sergio Leone and the form of the spaghetti westernright down to the use of old Ennio Moriccone and Luis Bacalov themes and a newSpanish-inflected score by Robert Rodriguez.
After the flashback to thewedding chapel, the Bride reaches California where Bud is living in a trailerand earning a living as a bouncer in a local nightclub. Although she approachesby night, Bud overcomes her and, having shot her in the chest with rocksalt, heburies her alive.
Cut to Beatrix in a coffin,remembering her days of training in China with Pei Mai, a famous villain fromHong Kong martial arts movies of the 70s who is here played by Shaw Brothersmovie legend Gordon Liu (Master Killer). Pei Mai forced Beatrix to learn how topunch through a wooden block from just a few inches away, a trick which helpsher escape her coffin and six feet of earth.
Fortunately for Beatrix,Elle Driver has arrived at Bud's trailer to take possession of Beatrix's swordfashioned by Hittori Hanzo in Vol 1.While Elle gets rid of Bud with the help of a black mamba snake, Beatrix getsinto a serious bitch fight with Elle in Bud's trailer which concludes with a goryblinding that leaves the vicious Elle thrashing around for dear life.
The killing of Bill whichconcludes the film in Mexico is not a simple as Beatrix is expecting thanks tothe unexpected presence of her four year-old daughter BeBe.
As this is a Tarantino film,there are numerous diversions along the way from a cameo by Samuel L Jacksonand Parks in two roles to multiple shooting techniques and styles (black andwhite, digital video) to the soundtrack which is any buff's dream to moments ofgreat invention such as Beatrix trying to explain how to read her pregnancytest kit to a hired assassin or the five-point exploding heart technique whichis one of Pei Mai's specialties.
Thurman is again a force ofnature in Vol 2, adding a maternal, vulnerable dimension to her vengeful,dogged Beatrix Kiddo; Carradine is the perfect, charismatic foil as thedeservedly doomed Bill.
Prod cos: A Band Apart, Miramax Films.
US dist: Miramax Films.
Int'l sales: Miramax International.
Exec prods: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Erica Steinberg, EBennett Walsh.
Prod: Lawrence Bender.
Scr: Tarantino, based on the character of The Bride created by Q&U.
DoP: Robert Richardson.
Prod des: David Wasco, Cao Jui Ping.
Ed: Sally Menke.
Mus: The RZA, Robert Rodriguez.
Main cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, DarrylHannah, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks, Bo Svenson