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KILL BILL VOL. 2

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Darryl Hannah, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks
Director:  Quentin Tarantino
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Miramax
Features:  See Review
Length:  137 Minutes
Release Date:  August 10, 2004

“You and I have unfinished business.”

Film ****

With Kill Bill Vol. 2, maverick filmmaker Quentin Tarantino created a pure movie going experience that is almost exhilarating beyond words.  It’s a bold experimental recipe that mixes Hong Kong styled action, swordplay and wirework with spaghetti western cinematography to tell a good old fashioned tale of revenge…but the real seasoning is the return of his sharp dialogue and the delightful playfulness with conventional narrative, telling a story somewhat out of sequence but bringing even more impact by doing so.

Though originally conceived as a single epic film, Tarantino recognized that he had a viable two part offering in the works, and re-constructed his pictures thus.  In Vol. 1, we were introduced to The Bride (Thurman), a one-time member of an elite group of killers for hire known as The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.  And we learned that her attempt to retire from that life and settle down into small town marriage was none too pleasing to her former boss, Bill (Carradine), who showed up with his crew on her wedding day to speak his mind as to why The Bride and her fiancée shouldn’t be joined in holy matrimony.  In Tarantino films, that’s a nice way of saying maximum bloodshed followed.

Left for dead but awakening from a coma four years later, The Bride picks up the pieces of her life and moves forward with a new, deadly purpose…she would kill Bill, and the rest of the squad that took everything from her.

We left her in the first part with two down, three to go.  As Vol. 2 picks up with a quick recap from The Bride to make sure we’re up to speed, we join her in progress heading for her showdown with Bill’s brother, Budd (Madsen), who has since retired from the life himself and settled down as a pot bellied bouncer living in a trailer.  Easy pickings for The Bride after we saw what she could do in the first installment, right?  Wrong.  Budd may not be a formidable physical foe, but his sharp mind and ruthless creativity brings about her biggest challenge yet…I wouldn’t dream of giving anything away.

Also left on the list is Elle Driver (Hannah), the one eyed beauty chomping at the bits to finish up what the group had left undone four years ago.  Her confrontation with The Bride just about redefines the dynamics of the conventional fight scene, by Tarantino setting it in one of the most confined spaces imaginable. 

And of course, Bill himself.  The bloody trail of revenge leads to him, but will The Bride be ready for what her old boss has in store for her?

Though I loved the first film tremendously, and recognized it for what it was as a gleeful homage to the many B picture cinematic stylings of the 70s, many Tarantino fans were a little put off by the effort.  Those who were expecting his usual quotable dialogue and quirky character development were instead presented with a furiously over-the-top yarn of blood and action galore, all in the style of the old Hong Kong swordplay films where limbs flew, heads rolled, and the red life force sprayed in almost beautiful fountains rather than oozing in pools of guck.

But Vol. 2 took everything that was built up in the first part and brought it to new heights.  The snappy prose was back, along with the memorable lines, deliberately skewed narrative form, and surprisingly enough, even stronger characterizations than before.  The back story of Bill and The Bride gets filled in over the course of the movie, and it’s a terrifically satisfying one.  By the time they square off (considering the movie is called Kill Bill, I haven’t given anything away, have I?), it’s a well-earned climax that will have you leaning forward in your seat with anticipation.

There are surprises galore along the way, and I’d have to be some kind of troll to give any of them away.  I can only say that the more I see the film, the more I delight in it, and even more so, I delight in watching others experience it for the first time.

Coming from a die hard Tarantino fan who often wondered aloud if he could possibly ever bring out a film equal to his great breakthrough Pulp Fiction, I’m pleased to announced that with Kill Bill Vol. 2, he has done more…he has surpassed the unsurpassable and eclipsed the ineclipsable.  This is a movie deliriously drunk with the absolute joy of filmmaking…and Quentin’s brew will have you gleefully intoxicated with its spell long after the credits roll.

Video ****

Like the first one, the anamorphic transfer for Vol. 2 is pure dynamite.  Colorful, vibrant, and with extremes ranging from hot desert sunscapes to black and white images, with a little of everything in between, the picture remains sharp, clear, and with remarkable level of detail throughout.  No undue grain, bleeding or compression mar the experience…highest marks.

Audio ****

The 5.1 soundtracks (Dolby Digital and DTS) are equally remarkable.  Audio is so crucial to this movie that during one extraordinary sequence, there’s nothing BUT audio.  The full range of surrounds keep the sound ambient and active, with the subwoofer accenting the action.  Dialogue is clean and clear throughout, and the musical arrangements by The RZA have plenty of kick.  Dynamic range is quite strong.

Features **

The extras include a deleted scene (showing David Carradine in action in a full Hong Kong fight sequence), a making-of featurette with cast and crew interviews, and a look at the musical CHINGON performance at the premiere of the movie.

Summary:

Whether you liked the first film or not, if you like Quentin Tarantino, you absolutely have to see Kill Bill Vol. 2.  It’s more than just the latest opus from one of our most innovative and fresh voices in cinema…it’s his unqualified masterpiece.

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