Kill Bill: Volume Two
2004Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen
ut sequels always suck," I heard one guy say outside the movie theatre, likely trying to talk his friends out of seeing Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (and into seeing what? The Alamo? Walking Tall?!). While he may have been on the mark when it comes to sequels in general, he’s clearly missing the point when it comes to Kill Bill.
As anyone even remotely interested in current movies knows, Quentin Tarantino’s fourth directorial feature was split in half by its studio, Miramax—due, presumably, to commercial interests, though the end results prove surprisingly interesting from an artistic standpoint. While Kill Bill: Vol. 2 is simply the concluding half of the film we saw begin last October, it plays like an alternate version of Vol. 1.
In this light, the films can actually be read in something of a political context. Awakened from a coma, The Bride’s (Uma Thurman) mission is, of course, to kill Bill (David Carradine), the leader of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, of which The Bride was formerly a member. Four years earlier, Bill and the DiVAS had ambushed the pregnant Bride at her wedding rehearsal, killing everyone in attendance, aside from her (and, as we later find out, her unborn child). In the first installment, no real complications arise to muck up The Bride’s plan. She makes her “to kill” list and proceeds to off fellow former DiVAS O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) and Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox).
In Vol. 2, however, things don’t quite go as planned. Number three on The Bride’s list, Bill’s brother Budd (Michael Madsen), shoots her in the act of breaking into his Nevada trailer, then buries her alive. Of course, she manages to bust out of her grave, but by that point, the one-eyed DiVA Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah), number four on the list, has killed Budd, in an attempt to take credit herself for ending The Bride’s revenge spree. When The Bride finally tracks down Bill, she discovers that their child is alive and well, and that Bill has raised her as a daughter.
Now, I doubt—especially considering that the two volumes were originally made to be released as one—that Tarantino seriously intended the films to strike a political chord, but they do nevertheless. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, America, like the Bride, was blood-thirsty and out for revenge. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 might, then, be the Bush administration’s (and perhaps the American people’s) dream scenario, swift and as complication-free as possible, whereas Vol. 2 proves decidedly closer to the messy reality of our war on terror and pre-emptive strike on Iraq, complete with unforeseen hindrances. In Bill, we expect to find the ultimate villain, partly because we want to cheer the Bride on in fulfilling her titular task. Instead, The Bride confronts a man she once loved deeply (and possibly still does), the father of her child. In Iraq, we were lead to believe we’d find weapons of mass destruction and the most vicious tyrant since Hitler, in a ploy to increase public support for a war that seemed dubiously unrelated to the World Trade Center attacks. Instead, we’ve found people who deeply (and justifiably) resent our arrogance in invading their country and a ragged old man cowering in a hole.
While I enjoyed Kill Bill: Vol. 1 a lot, it didn’t really leave me with much. I admired Tarantino’s technical mastery, and his uncanny ability to draw on his sources of cinematic inspiration to create a personal homage, but the film ultimately left me dry. There’s only so much that one can say through cartoon violence. It couldn’t help but seem to me like little more than a terrific exercise in style over substance. In Vol. 2, Tarantino achieves just the right balance between the two. While still heavily referencing John Ford, Sergio Leone, and, I’m sure, plenty of kung-fu films I’ve never heard of, much less seen, he comes as close as he ever has to genuine sincerity, to actually speaking outside the safety of quotes. In short, it possesses just about everything that Vol. 1 lacked—a heart, depth of meaning, a sense of purpose—while still offering its share of visceral thrills and snappy one-liners.
Toward the end of the film, Bill injects the Bride with some sort of truth serum and asks her why she abandoned him and the DiVAS. She responds by telling him that while she would’ve once done anything in the world for him, taken whatever mission he assigned to her, killed whomever he requested (and enjoyed it, too), when she realized that she was going to be a mother, she knew, at once, that she could no longer carry on with that sort of lifestyle. She knew that she would have to at least try to pursue a safer, more normal existence because she would now be responsible not only for her own life but for that of her child. Quite unexpectedly, what Tarantino has made with the second half of his fourth film is one of the more profound and honest movies I’ve ever seen about what it means to grow up, and, specifically, to become a parent. The film’s final shot, of The Bride and her daughter’s faces framed together, smiling for the camera, is something more beautiful than I’d have ever thought possible by the guy who made Reservoir Dogs.
By: Josh Timmermann
Published on: 2004-04-23