on April 5, 2004
I was lucky last year in that I got to see Kill Bill volume 1 weeks before it was released last year. I thought it was one of the greatest things I've ever seen on film and went on to see it eight times in theaters. I even chose it as the best film of 2003. Surpassing even the mighty Lord of the Rings. Something I thought would never happen. Me being a big Lord of the Rings fan.
So with such high praise for volume 1 my hopes were very high for volume 2. And it more than delivers. Where volume 1 focused more on the action and was fast paced. This one is at a slower pace and is more dialogue driven. Which is what Tarantino does best anyway. At approximately two and a half hours it is also a lot longer than the first one. Don't worry though Kill Bill volume 2 is not without it's share with great fight scenes and memorable new characters. The most memorable is Pei Mei the martial arts master who trained the bride and the other members of the Dead Viper Assassination Squad. Played wonderfully by Gordon Liu (who also played Johnny Mo in volume 1) Pei Mei even over shadows the mighty Hattori Hanzo played by Sonny Chiba in volume 1.
Other memorable performances come from Michael Madsen as Budd a.k.a Sidewinder and David Carradine as Bill. Madsen gives another Mr. Blonde caliber performance as the former assassin turned trailer park alcoholic. Claustrophobics take caution the confrontation between Budd and the Bride is really intense and very claustrophobic. Darryl Hannah is deliciously evil as Elle Driver. She's about as evil as can be. What should be noted is the fight between Elle and the Bride. What is unquestionably one of the most knock down, drag out, intense fights ever put to film. Tarantino pulls no punches here. Huge credit should once again be given to the sound department on this one. You can almost feel ever blow. It is the best fight in the whole of Kill Bill.
Never seen and only heard in volume 1 we finally get to see the performance we've been waiting for. David Carradine is of course great in the title role. He plays the role with such a laid back ease. Both intimidating and cool. You don't know whether to sympathize with the guy or hate him.
Those who said Uma Thurman deserved an Oscar nomination last year will probably say the same thing this year and then some. Where Thurman was praised for the intense action in volume 1, in this one she really goes all out. No longer a nameless assassin out for revenge she is now with a name (to be revealed in the film) and is now seen more as a person then a nameless killer. Not that the nameless killer thing was a bad thing. It was a great action role. This time the emotions come out. Thurman really lets herself go in the emotional scenes. Well worthy of a nomination.
So is Kill Bill volume 2 a worthy conclusion? Absolutely. Is it as action packed as volume 1? No. But that's not a bad thing because we get more of the great Tarantino dialogue. Was there anything I found wrong with the film? Well, there was one little thing. The credits go on forever. So if your like me and you like to sit through the credits you've been warned. Kill Bill volume 2 will not be without it's enemies. Those who didn't like volume 1 will probably not enjoy this one. If you're a fan of volume 1 then you should be more then satisfied.
April 02, 2004
on August 12, 2004
'Kill Bill Vol. 2' concludes Quentin Tarantino's revenge saga of a femme fatale assasin that seeks revenge on those that attempted to murder when she sought her own life. Like the first volume, the story is told through chapters that alternate between flashbacks and the present action.
Uma Thurman plays the Bride, who was nearly murdered at her own wedding by her former boss, Bill, and her the rest of the members of the Deadly Viper Assasin Squad (I think I got that right). In part one, she awoke after a four year coma to take revenge on two of the lady assasins played by Lucy Liu and Vivica Fox. Now she is after Sidewinder, played by a Tarantine regular Michael Madsen, the California Mountain Snake, played by Daryl Hannah, and Bill himself, played by Kung-Fu's David Carradine.
Where volume one was nearly all action as the Bride took her revenge on two of her former associates while subtly setting up the plot, volume two tones down the action while telling the rest of the story. Tarantino talks about this quite a lot in the DVD featurette. The trademark Tarantino dialogue is featured in key scenes between Marsden and Carradine (talking about revenge and the past) and between Carradine and Thurman (talking about comic book heros and the self we present to others). There are a few writers that have such a distinctive style for dialogue, and Tarantino's is truly unique.
Despite the reduction in action, this is still a great film. If you have an afternoon to spare, I recommend watching both volume one and two consecutively, and then watch the featurettes that talk about the films. Or, watch the films at your leisure, then watch the featurettes and then watch the films again. There is a lot to these films, and some of it is very subtle. Listening to Tarantino and the cast talk about the films opens new ways of looking at them.
Also on the DVD is a commentary, a live performance from the premiere, and a deleted scene. The deleted scene is an homage of sort to old kung-fu and karate movies. It is very over the top, and really had little to do with the rest of the movie. While the film itself lacks the geysers of blood from the first movie, this deleted scene has a few of its own. Watch it at your own risk. While on the subject of gore, there is still plenty of it in this movie. The squeemish will wince in a few places, but the blood is significantly less than the first volume.
This film is part kung-fu movie, part old spaghetti Western, and all revenge flick. Tarantino fans will be delighted. Those that liked 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Reservoir Dogs' should also like this film. Throw this movie in the DVD player the next chance you get, but tuck the kids in first.
on April 24, 2004
Kill Bill: Volume 2 is a film entirely separate from Quentin Tarantino's first installment: restrained where the other was excessive; introspective where the other relied on a glossy surface; and character-driven where the other relied on extended fight sequences. Volume 1 was not a bad film, but it was a B-movie, no matter how expertly executed. In Volume 2, Tarantino returns to A-level form, approaching though not reaching the heights of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown. His lightning-fast pacing is back, as is his gift for edgy and funny dialogue. This is an example of a very rare gem: a crowd-pleaser that is also a very good movie.
The Bride (Uma Thurman) has already killed dozens upon dozens of evildoers as the film begins. Still left on her handy checklist of death are Budd (Michael Madsen), Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), and of course Bill (David Carradine). The first sequence transports us back in time to the bloody wedding that never was, making disturbingly clear just why The Bride has murder on her mind. Bill, thanks to a tremendous performance by Carradine, is a fully realized and fascinating character right from the start: at once seemingly wise as he plays a long wooden flute and wraithy, speaking in a whispery hiss.
Madsen and Hannah are both very strong as the last two living members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DiVAS). Budd, in particular, feels doom impending on his desolate trailer home after a meeting with Bill. "This woman, she deserves her revenge. And we deserve to die," he says. But he doesn't plan to give up without a fight, putting The Bride into one of many potentially fatal situations. Elle, still wearing that mysterious eye patch (it is explained), may be the most devious of all. Apparently an expert on snakes, she reads a dissertation on the black mamba as a writhing victim lies dying on the floor.
Besides her Hanzo sword, we also learn why The Bride is such a dangerous combatant. She was trained by Pai Mei, a legendary warrior with a rotten attitude and a long white beard that he flips incessantly. He is also the master of the dreaded Five-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique. This maneuver consists of a blow to the chest that, upon his walking just five steps, makes the receiver's heart explode. This mid-movie, 20-minute sequence might be the highlight, blending comedy with the mystical back-story we crave. Pai Mei is hilarious, Tarantino's campy love letter to every cantankerous teacher known to kung fu cinema. And, it is not giving away too much to mention that the Five-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique plays a big role in the film's finale--the most flawless 30 seconds of artistry seen this year.
Apart from Pai Mei, there are numerous top-notch sequences in Kill Bill: Volume 2 where it is readily apparent one is watching the work of a master filmmaker. In one case, The Bride is buried alive. We feel as though we're trapped inside that coffin with her, as the rumble of dirt crashing onto the lid echoes through the darkened cinema. The best fight sequence in the film, maybe even both films, comes during the final confrontation between The Bride and Elle. It is short and intense, never losing the audience's full attention (as the endless culminating fight eventually did in Volume 1), and wraps up with a single moment that had the whole theatre cheering. Such an accomplishment cannot be overstated, since Elle is really a peripheral character.
Overlength is the single factor that mars this film, which in a way is totally unexpected. Some of Tarantino's very best work runs about 150 minutes, and every second is worthwhile. Here, running about 135 minutes, the climax is nearly 40 minutes long and really feels protracted. Perhaps this does reflect some weakness in The Bride and Bill as characters, since it would be enjoyable to listen to Jackie Brown, Max Cherry or Jules Winnfield converse all day long. The dialogue between them here is strong, and it is hard to even pinpoint what deserves to be cut, but the breakneck pace really screeches to a halt right when excitement should be hitting a crescendo.
Nevertheless, take five, ten, or 15 steps to see Kill Bill: Volume 2. It's is a Five-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique caliber rush of pure adrenaline and fun.
Final Grade: A-
In a telling moment of "Kill Bill Volume 2" Bill's brother, Budd, played in a wonderful understated performance by Michael Madsen, is listening to a recounting of events we saw in Volume 1 - specifically when Uma Thuman's Bride single-handedly destroy Lucy Liu's O-Ren Shii and her bodyguard platoon, the "Crazy 88".
Budd asks "You're telling me she cut through eighty-eight bodyguards before she got to O-Ren?"
Brother Bill replies "Nah, there weren't really eighty-eight of them. They just called themselves "The Crazy 88."
Budd asks "How come?"
Bill answers "I don't know. I guess they thought it sounded cool."
There is a LOT in Quentin Tarantino movies that happens because it looks or sounds cool. I'm reminded in "Pulp Fiction" of the dialogue-less scene in the Pawn shop where Bruce Willis is upstairs selecting a weapon to use on the psychotic murdering rapists downstairs. He considers a few lethal clubs and even a chain-saw before settling on the Samurai sword and in the audience I was thinking "YEAH! Get the samurai sword! That'll get 'em!" Plus - it's cool.
There is a scene where one of the characters sicks a deadly Black Mamba on another character, then whips out a notebook with pages of hand-written notes about how god-awful deadly the Black Mamba is. The character sits down, flips open the notebook, and delivers an almost pharmacologic description of the lethal venom, along with "'In the bush,' the saying goes, 'a lion can kill you, a leopard can kill you, and the black mamba can kill you. However, only with the mamba is death certain.' Hence its handle, 'Death Incarnate.'" Pretty cool, huh?"
Tarantino's movies are cool, and the characters in them know it. The smallest touches are added, sometimes for no apparent reason other than to add a "cool" factor. All of the members of Bill's Assassination team are called the "Deadly Viper Assassination Squad" and they all have "Snake" Code-names. Why? 'Cuz it's cool, of course.
In the beginning, at the wedding rehearsal of the bride, we get to see Samuel Jackson portraying the piano player for the wedding, and is there anyone cooler than Mr. Jackson in the movies? He asserts his coolness by telling how he sat in with practically every R&B group that came through his little town over 2 decades.
The Bride is standing at the alter of her wedding rehearsal when she hears a flute playing a familiar refrain. She follows the notes outside where she finds her old boss and lover, Bill, playing the familiar notes on his old flute. Bill is played by David Carradine, and if movies gave out "comeback of the year" awards like sports does, Mr. Carradine would have earned it in this role, courtesy of Mr. Tarantino. For extra "coolness", the flute that Bill is playing for the Bride is the same one that Carradine played back 30 years ago in his iconic role as Caine in the wildly popular tv series "Kung Fu".
The "Wedding Chapel Massacre" that we're told about in a roundabout way in Volume 1 is set up perfectly in Volume 2, then executed with a single swooping crane shot that backs from the wedding party at the altar, all the way back through the church, down the steps, straight back through the gravel parking lot where the other members of the Assassination Squad are approaching with cool strides and lethal weapons. The crane swoops the camera up overhead and we see the flashes in the church and hear the shots and screams - and we KNOW what is happening in there without being shown in gory detail. I can think of no single camera shot as virtuoso since Orson Welles' virtuoso opening to "Touch of Evil".
I haven't told you ANYTHING about the plot, but if you watched Volume 1 you KNOW where the plot is going. There's a surprise or two, but there's delight in every scene. I've read Roger Ebert say that movies aren't as important in "what they're about" as in "how they're about it".
Kill Bill is about Kung-Fu movies and westerns, and the way it's about it is..... cool.
One of the first things that struck me about Kill Bill 2 is how Tarantino seems to have aimed it at a subtly different audience. The first was both a paean and a parody of the Hong Kong style fight film and the anime style that is part and part of the same package. This film is something else - in some ways it is almost a commentary on the forces behind the making of part one, and an opportunity for Tarantino, speaking through Bill (David Carradine), to express some of his aesthetics directly to a willing audience.
This makes it a somewhat headier film as it traces The Bride's (Uma Thurman) progress towards their inevitable confrontation. The first part of the film, told in the context of a live burial covers confrontations with both Bill's brother Budd (Michael Madsen) and Elle (Darryl Hannah). The best acting here is a surprise performance by Chia Hui Liu, who plays Pai Mei, a perfect parody of a Chinese master of the martial arts. In many ways, these sequences are some of the best in the film, and they crystallize what is happening to The Bride (also known as Beatrix Kiddo) in the present.
That part done, the action turns to the hunt for Bill and Bea's discovery of her child (mentioned at the end of Kill Bill 1). This is the point where Tarantino shifts gears, spending as more time on emotional and intellectual questions than he does on actual violence. This makes an interesting contrast, and those who were expecting an explosive conclusion may find that this time they are a bit nonplussed. There is a moment of blurring action, but this adheres more to the Samurai model where the actual stroke occurs in a moment, almost as a side effect of the dramatic content.
What makes this all exceptional is that Tarantino to what was an absolutely predictable plot and manages to make each movement full of surprise and seeming free will. Tarantino shows himself a master of camera styles and choreography to the same effect, focusing this time on more intimate spaces. The physical acting is also notable (especially the fight scene between Elle and The Bride). The two films in this series make an interesting study of the palette of one of our more unorthodox directors.
on June 19, 2004
The second and final chapter of Quentin Tarantino's revenge epic, "Kill Bill: Volume 2" is not the tour-de-force that "Kill Bill: Volume 1" is. It is instead the re-affirmation that Tarantino is one of the best directors we have today.
Where "Volume 1" is a non-stop, leave-you-breathless pursuit of vengence, "Volume 2" is more pensive. In "Volume 2," we learn more about the relationship between The Bride (Uma Thurman) and Bill (David Carridine.) On display is more of the wondeful Tarantino dialogue, first made famous in "Pulp Fiction."
Uma Thurman's commanding screen presence from "Volume 1" is continued in "Volume 2." These movies are her's, and she is fantastic.
We get to see much more of Bill this time around, and David Carridine brings just the right touches to the character. Bill is a man who knows full well the horrors he has inflicted on the Bride, and Carridine effuses his portrayal with the right amounts of pain, forlorn, venom and self-rightousness.
Daryl Hannah reprises her role as Elle Driver from "Volume 1." Elle is so sublimely evil a character, you can see the joy it was for Hannah to play.
The Bride and Elle have an incredible fight in cramped quarters, and the reveals that take place during the encounter are both shocking and completely satisfying.
As Kung Fu master Pai Mei, Gordon Liu is another actor who is clearly having fun with his role. Costumed with giant, fluffy white eyebrows, and an extremely long beard, Liu uses both for comic effect with terrific results. Pai Mei is not your typical martial arts master, full of solemnity. Rather, he is quick tempered, as both the audience and the Bride discover quite quickly.
"Kill Bill: Volume 2" does stand on it's own as a film, but when combined with it's predecessor, it will stand as a monument to film making, paying homage to all of it's influences, from Japanese "grindhouse" films of the 70s, to the westerns of John Ford. Tarantino is the ultimate film student who never went to film school, and now he's showing us just how much he's learned.
Several months ago, eclectic director Quentin Tarantino regaled our senses with a visceral thrill-ride known as "Kill Bill: Volume 1". This first half of Tarantino's epic tale of revenge introduced to the enigmatic former assassin known as the Black Mamba (Uma Thurman) and the circumstances that led her to embark on a quest to `kill Bill'. Mamba miraculously survived an assassination by Bill and his current hit squad (although her entire wedding party was murdered), only to end up in a coma for four years. Once she regained consciousness, she began to exact brutal vengeance on those responsible.
In "Vol. 1" she took out Vernita Green/"Copperhead" (Vivica A. Fox) and O-Ren Ishii/"Cottenmouth" (Lucy Liu). The revenge was purely physical and graphically brutal. It was a veritable assault of visual images and thrilled the audience with the completeness and thoroughness of Mamba's revenge. Fascinatingly, "Kill Bill: Volume 2" is a drastically different film even though it continues the same story. "Vol. 2" takes a more philosophical approach to Mamba's revenge, whereas "Vol. 1" was the more physical approach. While more talkative possessing less action, "Vol. 2" is no less effective than "Vol. 1". What "Vol. 2" brings is the rest of the story that "Vol. 1" rightfully left out. In this concluding episode, we now know more about the history between Bill and Mamba. We learn more about why Bill ordered Mamba's assassination. As an added bonus, after seeing a steely-eyed killing machine in "Vol. 1", we get to see a more vulnerable Mamba in this installment. The combination of the two volumes completes this story. One is the yin to the other's yang. The choice to split the film into two parts now not only seems correct, but essential.
Doubts about Tarantino still having `it' should be full dispelled by this incredible cinematic achievement. "Kill Bill" honors martial-arts films of the past while setting a standard for future films to emulate. "Kill Bill" manages to thrill the senses while challenging the mind. Tarantino showed that he had this talent when he made "Pulp Fiction". "Kill Bill" is the next step in the evolution of Tarantino's work. Where he goes from here is anyone's guess, but it has the potential to be spectacular.
on August 7, 2004
The only reason people dont like this movie is because it doesn't have that much action. Though I thought that Kill Bill Volume One was an amazing movie that mixed a perfect blend of japenese cinema to modern cinema, I still believe that Kill Bill Volume Two was so much better. The dialogue, plot, and just the extreme emotions flying around made this film ever so much better. Also, volume one's action had basically not point. It was just, hey let's kill some people and have fun. Volume two has fight scenes that seem more personal to the main chracter. I dislike movie watchers that look at the movie genre as an action no thought thing. Watch both and keep an open mind or DIE
on July 5, 2004
If you are willing to let this two-part movie simply exhilarate you, then you will agree with me that it is one of the best movie experiences you've ever had. If you're going to try to analyze it by other means, you may not be wholly satisfied with it.
The two parts are perfect together, they complete each other, they need each other. The first part supplies us with some of the most visceral, thrilling action scenes I've ever seen in a movie, and I'm glad to have experienced that. But the second part made me love the whole all the more, deepening the characters and the story and the emotion enough to anchor this tale, so that what you're left with is a greatly satisfying whole. I wouldn't say that the first part is better than the second, or that the second part is better than the first. The two parts need and complement each other.
This is one of my all-time favorite movies. (And I don't, by the way, know a thing about the movies these are meant to pay homage to. There are probably a lot of little in-jokes that I don't get, but that doesn't lessen my enjoyment in the least.)
on April 14, 2004
Kill Bill Volume 2 is easily one of the most original stories Ive ever seen. Everywhere I thought this movie was going to go....it didnt. Granted there are violent scenes, revenge filled rampaging fights and plenty of edge of your seat action. What I didnt expect was so much comedy. The actors never played anything for a laugh and I believe thats why it translated so well. The black and white cinematography ranks up there with some of the best ever, plus the camera movement was unreal. They used plenty of really neat pan shots. They always had the camera moving at very pleasing angles that went hand in hand with the telling of the story and at times the unfolding of the story as when the camera balances out other people or objects come into frame.
The fight between Elle Driver and The Bride is one of the most memorable fight scenes ever, if not the best. Just really orignial concepts provided by the Yuen Wo Ping Fight Team who deserve some sort of award for their helping revive a rebirth in the genre let alone spawning movies such as the Matrix etc. Also deserving praise is Uma Thruman who easily gave her best performance to date. Wow is all that can be said. She was funny, vulnerable and [great action packed] all at the same time, and extremely [good looking]. I really see this as a femlae empowerment film no matter what critics say. What other film has made such [an action] woman character besides Foxy Brown, Coffy or La Femme Nikita. Her emotional range as an actress seems to be exceptional now, possibly because of being a mother (some say as a parent you have many new experiences to draw on as an actress). Well no matter why, Uma deserves a nod this time around. I cant see a woman putting in a better performance this year and Im not really into the whole commercial film thing. She really was amazing going from crying to laughing to crying and smiling to just plaind balling her eyes out.
Look for Gorgon Liu once again this time playing Pai Mei the abbott. He really cracked everyone up in the theatre with his comical take on the abbott character from the famous golden age Shaw Brothers martial arts flicks. He looked like he was cut right out of the Master of the Fatal Flying Guillotine.
Also this film boasts the most amazing soundtrack since, well Pulp Fiction. Its way better then Part One. It kept perfect stride with the film bringing us up and down. A really fun cd im sure. Finally Ill priase who deserves all the credit in the world, QT. Thank you for giving us pure escapist fun at the perfect time. Its obvious he loves this genre way more then even the hardcore addicts I know do and that is so welcome in today's film industry where producers call the shots. You can tell this series is his baby. For all the heat he took for the "4th film by QT"(wink wink) this is really an achievement. The writing is much closer to the famous quirky QT dialogue weve all come to know and love. During the screener someone said to hurry up during a dialogue scene which got a great response of "ugh!" and "Are you kidding me!" from people you wouldnt expect it from. Id say that means its a success as he settled back down and then started laughing (...). Congrats to Tarantino for creating a film I wish Id have made. Even more respect goes to the fact that before the credits rolled not only did David Carradines name get a standing ovation but so did O-Ren Ishii and Uma, and if that wasnt enough he gave the credit of creating the bride to Q&U. Now thats a great filmmaker, a great friend, and a great movie. Thanks. 5 stars!!