There are a few things of which I cannot under any circumstances tell you about Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill Vol. 2.” One: the “pulpy” way in which the Bride’s rivalry with Elle Driver is concluded. Two: the mysteries of the five-point palm exploding heart technique. Three: the Bride’s name. What I can and will tell you is this: go to the Regal Theater and buy yourself a ticket. Now.
The direction of the final installment to “Kill Bill” is somewhat predictable: the Bride (Uma Thruman) will kill Bill (David Carradine) and, before doing so, take down the last of her former colleagues. But the ways in which her mission unfolds itself are still every bit as gripping as in the first movie, if not more so.
For better or for worse, the conclusion to “Q & U”‘s bloody saga does not involve the Bride rampaging through a ridiculous amount of sword-wielding henchmen. Rather than “Vol. 1″‘s whirlwind of raging revenge, “Vol. 2” fills in the gaps, pumps up the dialogue, and shows off the sensitive sides of both the Bride and her Bill. The wit and complexity of Tarantino’s scriptwriting has returned to complete the series in full force. For moviegoers who found “Vol. 1” to be merely an extended fight scene with lots of style but little substance, “Vol. 2” is what you’ve been waiting for.
And for those of us who enjoyed the flash and fancy of “Vol. 1,” the meat of the finale makes an even more satisfying dish. The non-stop tension of “Vol. 1” is still there, it merely transposes itself from ultraviolence to a more subtle, plot-oriented suspense. But this is not to say that “Vol. 2” is at all tame.
During a grainy and subtitled flashback sequence, we learn exactly what – or, rather, who – transformed the Bride into such a resourceful killing machine. “The Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei” introduces us to the Bride’s master (played by Gordon Liu, with a voice dubbed by Tarantino himself) who takes the young and headstrong Bride and sculpts her into Bill’s finest assassin. And believe me – it shows. What enhances it all the more is that we finally grasp the full extent of her background and motivation.
Tarantino nourishes a bizarrely emotional nerve from the beginning of the film, during which we find out exactly what happened at the Bride’s wedding rehearsal. Bill, in making his first physical appearance during the saga, proves oddly sympathetic for a psychopath. The scene in which he and the Bride are finally face-to-face is one of the most emotionally charged scenes I’ve experienced in a while. This is not only due to Tarantino’s script or even a well-placed plot twist; as athletic in her acting as she is in her kung fu, Thurman is “truly and utterly” top-notch.
Honorable mentions should also go to Darryl Hannah, whose Elle Driver puts new meaning to the phrase “cold-hearted snake.” Michael Madsen is also delightfully sleazy as Bill’s drunken brother Budd. But of the “bad guys,” it is David Carradine’s Bill who glows brightest, showing the audience just how accurate Bill’s code name, “Snake Charmer,” is.
Cinematography-wise, Tarantino has polished the experimentation of “Vol. 1” to a high gleam. Most notably, the use of black-and-white during the wedding scene is enough to make the pretentious photo student in me salivate. Equally impressive is his treatment of a live burial, one of the movie’s most exhausting scenes. And to top it all off, “Vol. 2” is matched with a killer soundtrack.
In short, is “Kill Bill Vol. 2” as badass as its predecessor? ‘Course it is. A