Movie Review: Kill Bill: Vol 2 (2004)
“The Quest for Revenge Continues…”
Kill Bill: Vol 2 (2004)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen
Synopsis: The Bride continues her quest for revenge against her former mentor.
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Watching Kill Bill Vol 2., one can’t help thinking that, at that particular point in his career, Quentin Tarantino was sorely in need of a sage old master like Pai Mei to explain the need for an artist of indisputable talent to harness his ego to the yoke of self-discipline. Youthful talent has a tendency to plunge its hand into the riches at its disposal without regard for the coiled snake that also resides within, and Tarantino clearly lacked a guiding influence. The result is a movie that is full of neat ideas, but which gives the overriding impression that it’s director was so preoccupied with showing how cool he could be that he lost sight of the fact that stylish visuals and music alone don’t necessarily make for a good movie.
Bill (David Carradine – Death Race 2000, Bound for Glory), who is to be killed if The Bride (Uma Thurman – Pulp Fiction) succeeds in her mission, makes his first substantial appearance at The Bride’s rehearsal for her wedding, for which she has taken the unusual step of wearing her wedding finery. It’s a long stylish scene, deceptively understated and pregnant with the potential for explosive violence that sets the tone for the remainder of the movie. It goes on forever in a way that’s reminiscent of the protracted scenes in Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns; however the crucial difference between Leone’s movies and this one is that the Italian director knew how to sustain tension, while the scenes in Tarantino’s movie simply leak suspense as they unfold.
The influence of Leone’s sweaty epics are evident in those protracted scenes and in occasional bursts of Morricone-like music, while the less revered works of obscure directors like Liu Chia-liang and Lo Wei are referenced when The Bride learns her trade from the cruel tutelage of Pai Mei (Gordon Liu). Apparently, Tarantino briefly considered playing the part of the merciless teacher, which fairly boggles the mind considering the character sports the long silky beard and bushy white eyebrows so familiar to fans of the genre. They’ll also recognise Tarantino’s loving recreation of the chop-socky taste for muted colours and jerky zoom-ins and zoom-outs. It’s the director’s saving grace, the way he wears his love for movies on his sleeve; the man is steeped in movie history and this abiding passion shines throughout his movies in ways both good and bad. Tarantino isn’t only a director, he’s also the guy slumped in his cinema seat with his ankles crossed on the back of the seat in front of him as he shovels handfuls of popcorn into his mouth. But sometimes he tries a little too hard to impress.
Kill Bill Vol 2 takes place in a vibrantly colourful comic book world in which a sultry blonde one-eyed assassin wields a priceless Hattori Hanso sword with deadly grace, and a pissed off black mamba lies coiled and waiting in a case full of cash; a world in which darts of a truth serum four times more powerful than sodium pentathol are shot from distance into a victim’s leg, and in which a Kung-fu move will explode the heart of its recipient after they take five steps. But it’s also a world of verbosity, a world in which explosive action is situated between acres of dialogue that carries the familiar whiff of Tarantino-esque self-indulgence. Perhaps earlier in his career, when his name was not quite so unquestioningly revered and others involved in the filmmaking process had greater influence on what made it to the screen, the scenes would have been tighter, the film shorter, the result more rewarding. Without those voices, Tarantino’s ego holds sway over his commercial sense and we’re left with a bloated epic filled with a series of scenes that, while individually containing moments of interest, refuse to mesh together as a whole.
(Reviewed 16th December 2016)