Quentin Tarantino is back. Back in the director's seat where he most assuredly belongs, away from ill-advised forays into the acting arena, and he has thankfully has returned, quite literally, with a vengeance. Fist there was Kill Bill Vol.1 release last year which is predicated on the formulaic ruse of any 1970s Hong Kong kung-fu film worth its Ps & Qssweet, sweet, blood trenched revenge. And just for good measure, Tarantino artfully glommed onto the latest Japanese Anime craze and produced a movie worthy of his name and reputation.
And now there is the recently released to DVD Kill Bill Vol.2, which if you watched Vol.1 you know is the much anticipated follow-on; only in this film the carnage and violence that took center stage in the first installment takes a back seat to a more subdued interchange. In Kill Bill Vol.2 the hack and slash; blood and gore that so marked the film as a Tarantino vehicle has been replaced by a (sometimes) plodding dialog that explains t he bloodletting in Vol.1. Not that there isnt a fair amount of violence to sate the appetite of those so inclined, but Kill Bill Vol.2 is a far more introspective movie with an emphasis on character building, emotional interplay, and background.
Uma Thurman (Dangerous Liaisons, Pulp Fiction) The Bride a.k.a., Beatrice Kido is back to dispatch the rest of The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, led by Bill (David Carradine) that she didnt eliminate in the first movie. This installment of Kill Bill opens as a very pregnant Beatrice is ready to walk down the aisle, but instead witnesses the slaughter of her entire wedding party, before she herself is savagely beaten and then shot in the head and left for dead by her former associates. Seems Bill is the jealous type, and as we learn as the film unwinds resents the fact that Beatrice took off with his baby in the oven.
Thus continues the trail of blood, guts, heroics, light humor, and somewhat spectacular sword play that is Kill Bill Vol.2. However as I alluded to above, there is far less blood then in the first installment. The Brides third mark is Bills brother Budd portrayed by Tarantino alumnus Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Species) in his dilapidated trailer in the New Mexico desert. But the ex-assassin turned maligned bouncer at a local stripe club, is warned by his brother that our heroine is on her way. So he is prepared, and shoots her with rock salt from a 12-guage when she entered his trailer one night. Bud then proceeds to drug, spit on, and bury the hapless Bride alive.
Needless to say she escapes, but not before treating us to flashbacks of her brutal and punishing training regime under the Chinese martial arts master Pei Mei portrayed by Gordon Liu (Invincible Pole Fighter, Shaolin Challenges Ninja), who apparently has been alive for quite some time.
Bud does die but not at the Brides hands but by snake bite helped along by fellow one-eyed assassin Elle Driver portrayed by lovely, long limbed Daryl Hannah (Splash, Wall Street), who as it turns out was also a former student of Pei Mei who plucked out one her eyes, after she insulted him. Elle is still a member of Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and she has come to purchase The Brides priceless hand-made Samurai sword for one million dollars, but double crosses Bud but putting a poisonous Black Mamba in the suitcase full of money with dispatched Bud with great violence.
Just about the time Bud draws his last and Elle is about to leave, The Bride re-appears, and a brutal no holds barred catfight ensues
Kill Bill Vol.1 & 2 should not be confused with such honor bound Kung-Fu (martial arts) movies like Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), or Zhang Yimou's Hero (2002) whose fights are beautiful ballet-like choreographed martial arts extravaganzas. No, in Tarantino's world the fights with gleaming Samurai swords are more gory; more street brawl; limbs are unabashedly severed, blood flows, and squirts in over-exaggerated brilliance, as foes are dispatched in passionless aplomb. In Tarantinos world beauty is replaced by the nakedness of humanities ugliness towards itself. There is no room for honor, only single-minded determination to fulfill ones own designs, however wicked their purpose. But it works, I found myself embracing Umas character, rooting for her, despite the apparent wrongness of her actions.
And speaking of Uma Thurman, the exotic blonde with the piercing blue eyes and overly wide nose, the woman I feel in love with in the Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), and Dangerous Liaisons (1988) is sinfully good in her role as The Bride. Thurman pulls off her roll with surprising assurance as if were born to the role of hired assassin, though the part is unlike any other she has heretofore portrayed. Tarantinos close-ups of Thurmans face be it clean or coated with blood, testifies to the actresses unpretentious air of craft.
David Carradine only heard, but never seen in Vol.1., is electric in Kill Bill Vol.2. I have read reports that Tarantino originally offered the part of Bill to Warren Beatty, but he passed. Yes! Carradine was made for this role as the electrifying, charismatic, and to be feared Bill. Fit and well aged since the days of Kung Fu, the series, Carradine turns in a sterling performance as the leader of the pack; indeed he is a mixture of cruelty, ruthlessness, wisdom, intelligence, depravity, tenderness, and love. Carradine turns in an Oscar caliber performance. In my mind no other actor could have pulled Bill off, or breathed life into the character like Carradine.
While Kill Bill Vol. was unabashedly, unapologetically violent and brutal, Kill Bill Vol.2is surprisingly quaint. The violence is much more subdued; the human story is what is important here. And while I must admit that I miss the carnage and sword play of Kill Bill Vol.1 I enjoyed Vol.2 for its intellectual interchange, its message of human frailty and attempted redemption; its softness rendered in the forms of a child, and it rouge edges painted by death and suffering.
In the final analysis, Tarantino crafted a set of films that herald his genius as a film make, a master of the detail, a student of the macabre, and a stupendous storyteller.
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age
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