Leaving Well Enough Alone 

Kill Bill Vol. 2 is a Kinder, Gentler Tarantino


Kill Bill Vol. 2

dir. Tarantino
Opens Fri April 16
Various Theaters

Previously on Kill Bill: A young pregnant bride (and one-time assassin) is capped in the noggin by a team of former co-workers. The bride awakens from a lengthy coma with one thing on her mind--REVENGE. What follows is a whirlwind of intermingling stories; the Bride's deadly knife fight with an assassin-turned-suburban housewife, her samurai training under the tutelage of a master sword-maker, and an incredible battle royale wherein she mops the floor with a bar full of killers before defeating the cruelly dangerous O-Ren Ishii. Kill Bill Vol. 1 exploded the martial arts genre, and to many, this wildly funny and violent revenge tragedy was director Quentin Tarantino's best film ever.

The only problem? He wasn't finished.

Vol. 1 only managed to dispatch two of the four evil assassins--which leaves two more grisly deaths to come, not to mention the title character, who we're all paying good money to see "killed." So the question most Kill Bill lovers are asking is, "How in the hell is Tarantino going to top the hilariously bloody finale of Vol. 1?" The answer: He obviously can't. Therefore, Vol. 2 takes a fairly strong detour from the pop cultured, chopsocky love-in of Tarantino's first outing.

After decapitating a room full of sword-swinging killers, it's easy to understand why the Bride would underestimate the fat, drunk, hayseed assassin Budd (Michael Madsen). This proves to be a deadly error on her part, and at the beginning of Vol. 2, she finds herself in a particularly horrifying trap. But instead of the audience being treated to more on-the-spot amputations, this installment focuses more on the inner life of the Bride and Bill. We see some of her past training at the cruel hands of a martial-arts master (filmed in the glorious wire-fu style of an early '70s chopsocky flick), as well as the tenderness she once shared with Bill, the father of her child. And after an entertaining battle with the one-eyed Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah), it's time for the final showdown with Bill (the terrific David Carradine), who has one last surprise up his sleeve.

Kill Bill Vol. 2 definitely lacks the buckets of blood and gore that Tarantino so lovingly splashed on the screen in Vol. 1. While the first installment explored the expense of revenge, the second focuses on how the darkness of revenge has its roots in the deepest of loves. While the Bride certainly wants to make mincemeat of the assassins who ruined her wedding, it was her deep love for Bill that truly fuels her burning hatred. And in Vol. 2 we learn that Bill's deadly actions were also based on similar feelings.

If Vol. 1 played more like Reservoir Dogs, then Vol. 2 is more akin to the talky sections of Pulp Fiction. In his scriptwriting, Tarantino has certainly tightened up his tendency to create meandering scenes--but I still can't say I approve of the way he halves his plot, and switches horses mid-stream. His loving homage to the martial art "grind house" movies is what makes Vol. 1 such a certifiable blast...so why the sudden change from the bloody and gory to love story?

For pure spectacle, Kill Bill Vol. 1 can't be beat--and while the second installment is certainly watchable, and is for the most part entertaining... for pure spectacle, Kill Bill, Vol. 1 can't be beat. This begs the question, was there a real need for a Vol. 2? In the end, probably not. Tarantino does better with spectacle. And if Vol. 2 isn't the most successful of sequels, in our imaginations we can always rename Vol. 1: Kill O-Ren Ishii.

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