Quentin Tarantino brings his bloody revenge story to a close with Volume 2 of Kill Bill. Unfortunately, this time around, much of the violence and gore has been replaced with extremely long scenes of dialogue, and even the music - which is the true highlight of any Tarantino film - seems muted. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 is entertaining, but not nearly as good as the first one.
The movie picks up right where the last one left off, with The Bride (Uma Thurman) continuing on her quest to kill her ex-lover Bill (David Carradine) and his two remaining killers, Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) and Budd (Michael Madsen). Unfortunately, it seems as though Tarantino was determined to make a stand-alone film - a movie where people could see the second one without seeing the first - because, aside from a few reminders that O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) and Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) were killed before, there is really little requirement to have seen the first half of the story. That's not a good thing, as these two movies are supposed to be two halves, not an original and a sequel. Nevertheless, Kill Bill: Vol. 2 is dramatically different in so many ways that it is impossible to enjoy it as much. It is far inferior to Vol. 1.
The following portion of the review will have some spoilers, so be warned.
Though The Bride is halfway through her quest of vengeance, the movie decides to return to the place where all of this started - the wedding chapel. Tarantino effectively bores us with his opening scene, where Bill and The Bride talk a while about things that really don't matter. The problem with this scene is that Tarantino already established The Bride's motives in the first movie, even though he never went into detail. Nothing that is presented here really changes our views of the characters, and thus the wedding chapel scene feels like nothing more than filler.
A half hour into the movie (or what seemed like half an hour), things get better as The Bride confronts Budd. Though some unnecessary back story is given to Budd's character, the movie finally arrives at the point where the two characters meet. This is good. Some action, finally!
But before The Bride can get her way, the movie jumps back several years and shows how she gained her skills in the first place. This segment is the funniest out of the two movies, as we are presented with Pai Mei (Chia Hui Liu), a Chinse fighting master with extremely large, white eyebrows and a beard. Though this training sequence again seems like filler to an extent, it is one of the more entertaining parts of the movie.
Back to Budd. Though it has taken a while for The Bride to actually do anything meaningful in her quest, the movie kicks into high gear as Budd is finally extinguished and she gets to do bloody battle with Elle Driver. The conclusion to this sequence is quite memorable.
Then, it is on to Bill and only Bill, and this is where things go downhill. It was my fear that Tarantino would do something like this to finish his film, and unfortunately he did just that. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 sputters to a halt as The Bride finds out that her daughter is still alive, that Bill was just extremely heartbroken when he tried to have her killed and that Bill has to spend 20 minutes talking about such things. Amazingly, the movie suddenly turns into a mother-daughter and mother-father picture, and is hugely disappointing. Of course, all of this boring talking is leading up to a climatic fight scene, right? Wrong! Carradine is given about a minute of fighting, maximum. Oh, what a terrible way to end the story!
Aside from the disappointing turn of events in the story, Kill Bill: Vol. 2 also lacks the edge that Vol. 1, and every other Tarantino movie, possess. His choice of music is what makes most of his films, and frankly, with the exception of one or two songs, his choice of music here is rather dull. Every single scene is less flashy than those in Vol. 1, from both a musical and technical standpoint.
Kill Bill: Vol. 2 is good on its own right, but if you treat it as the second half of a story - as it should be - it doesn't even come close to measuring up. The first half was smart, stylish and action-packed; the second half is dull, plain and boring. If you watch all four hours in sequence, like I did, the second half seems completely out-of-place. Did Tarantino forget that he was not making a sequel but a conclusion to Kill Bill: Vol. 1?
More than anything else, I am disappointed with this movie. I am disappointed that Tarantino would choose to betray the fans of the first movie by tricking them into thinking that Vol. 2 would be more of the same, bloody masterpiece. Perhaps at some point I will come to respect the second half more, but right now, I can't see how that is possible.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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