IMDB #198 Kill Bill Vol. 2

I was torn on the proper way to approach today's entry, 2004's Kill Bill Vol. 2. Should I rewatch the first part in preparation, or just handle the second half on its own?

But then I realized that every other series in this project will be out of order, anyway (I'll be watching Star Wars in 3-1-2 order, Lord Of The Rings 2-1-3, Indiana Jones 3-1, and The Godfather 2-1). So we're looking at the second part of Quentin Tarantino's blood-soaked passion project on its own merits.

Will it hold up- or even make any sense- on its own?

The Key Players:

On second thought, "blood-soaked passion project" can refer to every single Quentin Tarantino film. Somewhere along the line, he's gone from edgy, hip crime dramas (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown) to overindulgent homage pieces (Death Proof) and the Kill Bill series seem like the clear line of demarcation. An Oscar winner for Pulp Fiction's screenplay and multiple nominee for Inglourious Basterds last year, he's moved successfully from the cult to the gratingly ubiquitous- though maybe that's just my opinion. But when you watched his brief role onscreen in Pulp years and years ago, did you think to yourself "Man I hope this guy does the voice of Brainy Smurf if they ever make a Smurfs movie!"

Uma Thurman received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Pulp Fiction, and apparently concieved the character of "The Bride" with Tarantino back then. After rising to fame in art films like Dangerous Liasons and The Adventures of Baron Munchaussen, Thurman spent the 90s headlining flops like Batman & Robin or The Avengers, though some underrated gems like Gattaca and Beautiful Girls helped fill the time in between.

The late David Carradine is most famous for his role as Caine in "Kung Fu" (a cultural touchstone name-dropped in Pulp Fiction and Office Space, which popularized the nickame "Grasshopper" for a pupil learning from a master). His 100 film roles took him from B-movies like Death Race 2000 to a role as Woody Guthrie in Bound For Glory. Most were certain his role here would earn him an Oscar nod (he barely appeared in part 1), but he settled for his fourth Golden Globe nomination.

Tarantino regular Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah round out the cast.

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The Story:

Previously, on "Kill Bill": Uma Thurman's The Bride awoke from a coma after her estranged lover (Carradine, the titular Bill) and her fellow assassins gunned down her wedding rehearsal. She's already killed two of the hit squad (known as the Deadly Vipers) and we open Vol. 2 with a black and white shot of her driving to finally kill Bill himself.

Then we flashback to the wedding rehearsal- Bill appears, leading to a tense conversation, but he gives his reluctant blessing for The Bride's new direction in life- pregnant and about to marry a record-store owner in El Paso. Then the Deadly Vipers show up and guns start a blazing.

The Bride then goes after Budd (Madsen), Bill's now flabby and despondent brother. Seemingly less dangerous than the other Deadly Vipers, Budd now works as a put-upon strip club bouncer and earlier tells Bill he even pawned his sword for $250. But he gets the drop on The Bride all the same, shooting her in the chest with rock salt and burying her in a wooden box with her arms and legs tied- he does give her a flashlight, to be fair.

The Bride, after some moments of panic, calms down and flashses back to her extensive training with comically ridiculous martial arts master Pai Mei. A harsh, super-critical bearded tutor, Pai Mei had put her through rigorous and extremem training, which we see montage-style. Among the lessons were learning to strike a pwoerful blow by moving your hand only three inches- in the present The Bride uses that technique to punch her way out of the coffin and emerge from the ground.

Meanwhile, the maniacal and eye-patched Elle Driver (Hannah) arrives to buy The Bride's sword from Budd for a cool million- but she's hidden a posoisnous black mamba snake among the cash, and it bites him in the face. As he dies in agony, Elle laments that such a loser took out her greatest foe, just before THe Bride arrives for a violent, destructive fight in the trailer.

Pai Mei, it turns out, had plucked out Elle's eye for being insubordinant (Bill had warned that this was possible in that flashback), and she reveals that she poisoned and killed him in return. The Bride (whose name, we've just now learned, is Beatrix Kiddo) then plucks out her remaining eye and leaves her flailing in defeat.

Then it's on to Mexico for the final showdown with the man himself...

The Artistry:

Kill Bill vol. 2 is slow, and meandering. People talk, and they don't even talk as snappy as people in Tarantino movies normally talk. We see Budd get yelled at by his boss at the strip club for a while, Bill does nothing but yammer and then pause for thirty seconds between every fact, there's very little killing at all for a movie with the word in the title.

But for all that, it's actually not a bad character study, especially the relationship at the center. It helps that after the buildup of the first volume, David Carradine's performance doesn't dissapoint as the quiet, soulful killer.

Even though I couldn't really buy Pai Mei at all, the buried-alive sequence is a whole lot of fun, from the black screen during the sounds of the dirt being piled on to the score when Thurman triumphantly breaks out.

It's really a whole film of anticlimaxes- The Bride's attack on Budd ends right when it starts, he then gets killed abruptly, the fight with Elle ends all at once with a quick pluck even though the soundtrack's about to explode, and the final fight with Bill is maybe ten seconds long.

Vol. 2 benefits greatly from being told in order, I think- in such a personal tale, I really didn't see the need to fracture the timeline in any way.


She totally kills bill. What a twist, right? But first she discovers that her daughter is alive and well, and she and Bill have it out about their past (though he uses a truth serum dart to get answers).

The film ends with a visibly distressed but enourmous relieved Beatrix Kiddo drives away with her daughter.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

Meh. It's fun, but even with more heart in the second volume it's still more collage than story, more homage than necessary viewing.

The Legacy:

There is a Norwegian parody called Kill Buljo out there, and all parties claim there is a Vol. 3 forthcoming in 2014 (ten years later in the story and in real life).

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

David Carradine makes a lengthy metaphor about Superman, which articulates precisely why I don't really find Superman compelling- because he's not human. Clark Kent is the disguise.

Leftover Thoughts:

-I will get to watch Terminator 1 & 2 in the right order.

-The Brainy Smurf thing might just be a rumor, turns out- but I say my point is just as valid if you were willing to believe it at first.

-Rufus? He's the man.

Coming Up...

197. Shadow Of A Doubt

196. Sleuth (1972)

195. A Streetcar Named Desire

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