Kill Bill Vol. 2

QT and UT are back for More RevengeĀ 

Imagine a friend invites you to hear his or her band play. You haven’t heard them play before, so you’re not sure what to expect, but from you’re friend’s music collection you know what their influences will be. The first set blows you away with an amazing collection of covers – all kinds of great stuff that you loved growing up, including tunes you were sure that you’re the only one who remembered them. After an intermission, you’re stoked to dance to a whole bunch more. And you get those covers, though perhaps in a different style of music, but something else, too. With increasing frequency, the band drops original numbers into the set – originals that incorporate bits of those influences, of course, but the new music has a strong voice of its own, too.

That’s the trick Quentin Tarantino pulls off in Kill Bill. InĀ Volume 1, he dazzled us with chunks of stuff from lots of exploitation movies he loves, incorporating these notes into his own song. In this second half, he still has more covers to play – in fact, he tries to cram so much in that he has to use two end credit sequences – but he also gets further down to what he loves best. Even though QT is cuckoo for psychotronic movies, he’s even more cuckoo for telling stories, and at some point in the process of stuffing his script with references to Executioners from Shaolin and Django he must have discovered that… hmmm… there’s a darn compelling story in amongst the homage.

The over-the-top body count of the first half is cut back considerably here, a factor that may put off those eager to have the same movie all over again. But here’s the surprise in your box of Cocoa Puffs: the second half is all about dramatic tension. Black Mamba (Uma Thurman) goes through a lot of pain on the road to kill her old boyfriend Bill (David Carradine), including an expanded view of what happened at that little church in Texas, a straightforward (but horrific – claustrophobics may want to leave the theater) death trap, one hell of a cat fight in a trailer, flashbacks to arduous martial arts training, and even painful flashbacks to happy times with the man who would betray her. It’s that act of betrayal, and her anticipated revenge, that forms a line that runs under the entire film. A line that tightens with every frame until we’re ready to jump.

We get a surprise when we find ourselves sympathizing with Bill’s brother Budd (Michael Madsen), even though we see him commit some despicable acts. We get an even bigger surprise in the final act, when Bill turns out to be a really charming guy. By the end, it’s not so unbelievable that our heroine fell for this guy at one time, and we understand what he’s done a bit better. However, we also know that he’s a Viper through and through, a villain that could strike at any split second, and it’s that depth of character and sense of danger that make Volume 2 a superior capper on the Kill Bill saga.

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