Review: Kill Bill Volume II

Posted by: Mark McLeod  //  April 16, 2004 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Movie Reviews 

WARNING: This review may contain spoilers that relate to Kill Bill Volume I.

When we last left The Bride (Uma Thurman) she was well on her way to her ultimate destination after knocking off the first two members on her hit list of Viper Death Squad Assassins, Vernita Green (Vivica Fox) and O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) " a task that took her to Japan and the world famous Samurai sword master Hittori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba). Now armed with the most dangerous samurai sword, she heads towards her final destination and that is to kill Bill. Before she can get there, she has two others to take care of " the deadly Budd (Michael Madson), the only male member of the group and Bill's brother, and Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), Bill's number one girl and The Bride's replacement. Can she make it to Bill and will she be able to get, as her opening monologue says, "Bloody Satisfaction"? Find out as Quentin Tarantino unleashes the second half of his action saga.

That's the basic outline of the story of Kill Bill Volume II, but there is a lot more going on in this stylistic, flashy, hilarious, and downright fun ride of a motion picture. Told in typical Tarantino fashion, the story jerks between the past and present as we the audience are given more insight into the motivations and actions that have led The Bride on her quest for revenge. We learn about the real events that transpired at the wedding chapel and how the bride made the decision to retire from the Viper Death Squad. We journey to China to witness our heroine's training sessions with the deadly Pei Mai (Gordon Liu), a monk who possesses the most powerful martial art skills including the five-point palm heart exploding trick, something of mere legend. Along the way we're treated to not one or two, but three action-packed fight scenes involving various members of the Viper Death Squad, including Elle Driver and Budd, and of course The Bride gets in on the action as well.

Quentin Tarantino is back in fine form with the conclusion to the original Kill Bill saga (a possible third film was just announced but is 10 years or more down the road). Originally set to unwind as one motion picture before the running time got in the way, Volume II plays very differently than its predecessor. Where Volume I focused more on almost non-stop action and very little on plot and character moments, Volume II changes that with only a few key action moments and the remainder of the film spent explaining more about The Bride and her various enemies. That's not to say the film is lacking anything in the action department, because the action elements of the second volume are still rather stunning, just there is nothing along the lines of the massive battle with Oren Ishii from the first film. Director/Writer Quentin Tarantino always surprises audiences and by telling the back story in the second film it will take viewers by surprise. I liked the first feature but was a bit confused about how certain things were happening and the motivations behind them. Luckily, everything is cleared up in this second volume which makes the actions of the first film seem justified and important. Not only do we learn of the origins of The Bride and for that matter her real name, but we also learn what led Bill to turn on her and cause the entire series of events that we as the audience had been watching occur for the previous nearly 4 hours of film.

Since this is really the second half of one long motion picture, the entire cast minus those eliminated by The Bride in Part One return for Volume II. Uma Thurman, who was the dominating force in the first film, remains the lead character and plays The Bride with a ruthlessness, yet still caring sensibility. Forever changed by the events of the Wedding Chapel massacre, she is forced to go down this road. She may not like it but it's a requirement. Thurman oozes sexiness and toughness with relative ease and plays the action and comedy moments equally well while not getting lost in the more dramatic moments towards the film's conclusion. Thurman actually betters her performance from the first volume as her character is given more back story and we learn the motivations for her actions. She may be a lethal assassin but she does have a heart. However, the real standout in the film is David Carradine, who plays the man only known as Bill. Relegated to an almost entirely off-screen presence in Volume I, Bill is very much a major player in this second chapter. Carradine, best known for the 70s series Kung-Fu, is one downright bad ass as Bill. Showing little remorse for anything, Bill is made a complete character by Carradine. Turning to the comical side, Chinese character actor Gordon Liu gets a number of laughs in his turn as kung-fu master Pai Mei and Daryl Hannah gets both laughs and glances as Elle Driver, a woman who's lost an eye but is still very much someone you don't want to mess with.

After viewing the first chapter in the Kill Bill saga, I was left wanting more. I enjoyed the film for its mindless violence and occasionally amusing dialogue, but I was left with the sense that there was something missing. Now after seeing Volume II, everything makes complete and total sense. Quentin Tarantino has made a film that not only improves upon the first in almost every regard, but also stands on its own as a story of revenge. Viewed on its own basis, fans of the ultra violent aspect of the first film may be a tad disappointed. However, if you view the film as the second half of the tale then you will no doubt enjoy the marvelous ride that is Tarantino's Kill Bill. From the opening frames of the story that comprise the teaser trailer to the end credit montage, this is one fun ride. Volume II is chocked full of the trademark Quentin Tarantino dialogue we've come to love from Pulp Fiction, including a monologue about super heroes and an ultra stylistic and cool action scene between Bill's girls. This is one very cool motion picture. Everything about this movie oozes cool. Better than the sum of its parts, this is a fitting end to the saga of The Bride. Highly Recommended.

Mark McLeod has always loved film. In addition to his roles with ShowbizMonkeys.com, Mark also works on many film promotion projects in Vancouver, BC, through his company, Mark McLeod PR.

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