If revenge is a dish best served cold, then The Bride - nee Beatrix Kiddo – has proven herself to be the Martha Stewart of cold cuts: when we last left her she awoke from a four year long coma and served up a dash of disemboweling, dismemberment and decapitation, leaving dozens of flunkies and two of her betrayers dead. But with three names left on her to kill list, there’s still lots of work to be done before her sense of justice is sated.
I'm just a girl...
Volume I was an homage to 70’s martial arts films and featured masterfully choreographed live action, anime, humor, a blood soaked adrenaline rush of Itchy and Scratchy style violence that was meshed together perfectly with the accompanying soundtrack. Volume II is a much more languorous expository essay and history lesson that details the why and the wherefore that has drawn our characters together, and features drawn out Sergio Leone Western style showdowns.
With the emphasis on dialogue instead of death Uma Thurman must focus on the emotional as she continues on her journey. Thurman’s exchanges are carefully measured, and purposeful giving us more insight into Beatrix’s motivation, and we discover the person inside the assassin. Daryl Hannah reprises her role as Elle Driver, the one-eyed nemesis, who embodies cold blooded stoicism as she calmly details how the person she’s just betrayed will painfully die. Elle is a great villain, and you can’t wait for her to receive her just deserts.
Chia Hui Liu is a joy to behold as the recalcitrant old school Kung Fu Master Pai Mei, who revels in belittling his student as he disdainfully flicks his wispy snow white beard, personifying the gap between East and West. Though he has limited screen time Liu’s character is one of the most memorable and influential characters in the piece. And finally there is David Carradine, aka Bill, the titular villain responsible for the entire vendetta. Carradine, best known for playing the lead in the Kung Fu series in the 70’s (he was given the role over Bruce Lee, despite the fact that he’s not Asian), is a thoughtful rogue, who doesn’t claim to be good, and actually succeeds in being likable despite the fact that he’s despicable.
For those who enjoyed the action sequences in the first film, and expected more of the same, there will be some disappointment, but Tarantino hasn’t abandoned the blood letting altogether. The donnybrook between Elle and Beatrix, in stark contrast to the finessed swordsmanship showcased at the House of Blue Leaves, is a knock down drag out bar brawl where anything goes: it is dirty, bloody, visceral and real. And once again Tarantino creates that one special sequence that will make you wriggle in your seat (claustrophobes beware). Tarantino also pays attention to the look of the film.
Volume II features a mix of cinematic techniques, ranging from sequences shot in black and white, and grainy 16mm to washed out vistas, and shimmering out of focus shots that give the film it’s Western feel. Notably absent, however is the Tarantino’s trademark marriage of music and moment, indeed there is little accompaniment this time round, which I assume is intended to give the film a more contemplative feel.
Kill Bill Volume II is definitely not the film many viewers were expecting, which in retrospect was a wise decision by Tarantino, as it would have been impossible to sustain the frenetic pace set by the first one without becoming absurd. Instead he opted for a more philosophical approach in which he establishes that there are no absolutes of good or evil, but merely circumstance. I would have liked a few more fight scenes though…