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Culture Reviews
Kill Bill: Vol.2 / By Q.Tarantino /
Dome Cinema 
By Ryan Macalino
Kill Bill: Vol.2 is a magnificent movie, and definitely one of the best of this year. While I’m eager to entertain people’s arguments against it (poor pacing, too much dialogue, lacking in action, etc.), at the same time I can’t help but explain to these people that they’re just missing the point.

First of all, while this movie stands perfectly well on its own, one has to remember that it was originally meant as the latter half to last year’s breathtaking Kill Bill: Vol.1. Most of the new fans that director Quentin Tarantino attracted with that movie will probably be unhappy with this offering, as he has forsaken the stylish hack-and-slash music video presentation of KBv1 with a more penetrating study of the very Tarantino ‘universe’ and the motivations of the characters that populate it. On the other hand, if you allow yourself to inhabit this universe, you’ll find that his razor-sharp storytelling style inflicts a much deeper cut than a sword from Hattori Hanzo himself.

For the benefit of the people who missed KBv1, this movie actually begins with The Bride (Uma Thurman) speaking to the audience and explaining her mission and backstory: “I’ve killed a helluva lot of people up to this point, and I only have one left to kill… Bill.” Of course in order to get to Bill (David Carradine), she must first find a way to get past the two remaining Vipers: Budd (Michael Madsen) and Elle (Daryl Hannah).

The Characters

When we first see Bill’s brother Budd in a flashback, we are immediately reminded of a similar character in Reservoir Dogs; apart from being classy and loyal, Mr. Blonde was also unpredictable yet effective. The years have not been kind to Budd however, as a subsequent falling-out with Bill has put him in a bit of a downward spiral. Michael Madsen, in a seemingly flawless Mickey Rourke impression, is excellent as the pathetic and self-punishing strip-club bouncer. In the showdown with The Bride, he shows that his instincts have not dulled with time; he is still just as unpredictable and effective as ever.

You can also tell that Daryl Hannah had a blast in playing Elle, the most ruthless Viper. Being The Bride’s rival and now Bill’s mistress, their fight scene is the action highpoint of the movie. In contrast to the beautiful wire-fu sequences in KBv1 however, this time around it’s no-holds-barred brawl in Budd’s dilapidated trailer. The action is so fierce you’ll cringe after witnessing its eye-popping outcome.

In addition to Hannah’s turn as superbitch Elle, David Carradine is simply perfect as Bill. In past outings, Tarantino has saved many a career on life support, and this time around he does a great favor to the old Grasshopper. Carradine delivers each line with such composed disposition that you even wonder if he’s acting at all. The result is one of the coolest characters in the Tarantino universe. I only wish they actually showed some scenes with him and his si fu Pai Mei (Gordon Liu), the legendary kung-fu master whose tutelage scenes are just too hilarious to properly describe here.

The Direction

Tarantino’s direction is excellent, using different techniques to heighten the emotional impact of his off-the-wall storytelling. He finds the appropriate times to show the tricks he’s used before: long shots, black & white, foot shots, old-school soundtrack. This time around, he also plays with the granularity (at times coarser to convey more grit and awkwardness) and screen ratio (he switches from letterbox to 4:3 to convey claustrophobia and helplessness). There’s even one scene in the Texas Funeral sequence where the screen is completely black for a good 5 minutes, while all we hear are endless heaps of earth being piled upon the heroine’s casket. Brilliant.

Kill Bill: Vol.2 shows why Tarantino is one of the best American directors today. It’s evident in this movie that in his youth he had digested most of what pop culture had fed him, primarily in kung-fu flicks, cult classics, westerns, and comic books. He lovingly garnishes this movie with references that most viewers will miss, but at the end he proves that transcends all of his inspirations. You’ll see how he brings it all together: The Bride’s femininity, ferocity, and focus are apparent when she finally faces Bill. In the meantime, Bill’s exposition allows us a peek at the complexities of their relationship, and the reason for his past actions. In very Tarantino-like fashion, it all seems to make sense. The emotional impact at the end of the movie is quiet but great, and too much bloodletting would have ruined it.

If I am allowed one objection however, it is that the movie could have been tighter. I suggest you take your washroom or concession break at the beginning of two scenes: Budd late for work at the strip club, and The Bride meeting up with Bill’s mentor. The scenes slow down the pace considerably, and they could have been easily cut and explained in passing. However, these are only minor reservations for an otherwise awesome story and triumphant return of a great director. Watch KBv1, immediately follow it up with KBv2, and immerse yourself in the Tarantino universe. Have one helluva ride!

20.06.04
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