After the fantastic cinematic experience that was 'Kill Bill vol 1.', it's hard to go into a sequel without a sense of apprehension. It's a little different this time around however, as 'Kill Bill vol 2'. is really just the latter half of the same movie, and as such expectations were high that it would live up to the dynamic first entry.
And for the most part, it has succeeded. 'Vol. 2' begins with the Bride narrating the sequence of events that led up the murder in the chapel. Things are a little different then we were led to believe, but they don't change the storyline at all. Her next stop is El Paso, to pay a little visit to Bill's washed-up brother, and hopefully cross off another name on her list. After that she's only got Elle Driver to deal with, and then it's Bill himself. What she intends to do to Bill is pretty self-explanatory, given the title. Of course, she still hasn't realized that Bill has an ace up his sleeve - her daughter, given up for dead. Truly a melodramatic twist that works wonders.
This time around the action plays a backseat to Tarantino's plot explorations, and his desire to send up 'The Bride' in true Western fashion. He's intent to transfrom the Bride from a mindless killing machine into the archetypal hero. He's done an excellent job of both paying tribute and lampooning classic Westerns and Samurai/Kung Fu movies, and 'Vol. 2' portrays a wider selection of these then the first movie.
One of the Bride's flashbacks recalls her training with the famed master of martial arts, Pai Mei (wonderfully played by Gordon Lui). In true Kung Fu style, Tarantino shoots the scenes with rapid zooms and close framing. Lui does an excellent job playing the aloof guru, spouting cliches and flamboyantly stroking his gratuitously wispy beard. The characters also snap off cheesily cool one-liners, which would find themselves quite at home in any number of spaghetti westerns. There's also plenty of melodrama throughout the movie, with some scenes almost dripping with it. Scrumptous!
This movie's much lighter on action than the first one. The few scenes included seem very truncated, although they're enjoyable to watch for their abbreviated duration. Gone are the veritable oceans of blood and masterpieces of choreography, replaced by a handful of quick cuts. It's disappointing that the movie's taken such a direction, given 'Vol. 1's reputations for stunning bladework and the like. The final scene in particular is a let-down, as it's literally over in a matter of seconds.
The other notable action sequence, with the Bride taking on Elle Driver, is fantastic, and finishes off with a spectacular ending that's sure to be remembered as a classic of film.
Tarantino's penchant for dialogue is much more prevalent than before, especially in the latter half of the movie. Although it's completely relevant in the context and an interesting idea nonetheless, there's something strange about Bill going on at length about Superman and comic books in general, much less his scathing commentary on the nature of bee heirarchies. Speaking of Bill, David Carradine does a perfect job of portraying his character. He handles any number of emotions with aplomb, and personifies the word 'cool'. Not to be outdone, Thurman turns in another magnificent performance. She manages any number of emotions, quite capably spitting out every line and executing every action with an impressive style and grace. Dirty and dishevelled or every bit the sexy female assassin, 'The Bride's is truly a wonder to behold. Thurman manages to simultaneously play both the two-dimensional heroine of pulp film as well as the reluctant yet stoic protagonist of thoroughly more serious movies.
Tarantino's films are always shot beautifully and 'Kill Bill Vol. 2' is no exception. Although not blessed with the graceful combat and urban settings of the first volume, this one manages quite capably with a different direction. The focus here is the desert, and the movie benefits from quite a different feel than its predecessor. Intercut with shots of desert scenery among others, the film looks and feels spectacular. Deft camerawork coupled with seamless editing make for quite a visual feast. In a side note, Tarantino's blossoming interest in Thurman's feet continue, and he slips in a handful of shots to prove it.
'Kill Bill Vol. 2' succeeds admirably in building up its characters, and delivering an engrossing plot. Although the action has been trimmed for this entry, Tarantino tells an interesting tale with his signature style. The movie manages to be both tongue-in-cheek and deadly serious at the same time - an tribute to Tarantino's adept direction. Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of 'Vol. 2', and even 'Vol. 1', is the Bride's gradual transformation. From a mindless pursuit of vengeance to a measured need for justice, Thurman's character grows in the true spirit of an epic protagonist.
Although both volumes enjoy poking fun at a great number of mindless genres, Tarantino has also managed to explore and resurrect the thematic roots of their films. 'Kill Bill vol. 2' may not be as much fun as its predecessor, but in almost every way it's a more serious and thoughtful movie. The intent of these two movies was not just to spill as much blood as possible while slyly winking at any number of tired movies, but to do it while building an engaging storyline and creating memorable characters. It would seem that they've succeeded. These two movies combine to create a single masterpiece that spans generations of cinema, and above all - entertains throughout.