Movie Review – Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
by NIR SHALEV
When we last left her, “The Bride” (Uma Thurman) was in Japan wreaking vengeful havoc on O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) for beating her up and shooting her and leaving her for dead, along with other assassins and her boyfriend Bill (David Carradine). She’d also defeated Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), another assassin, prior to her trip to Japan. In Vol. 2 she’s back in the U.S. and looking to kill Bill’s brother Bud (Michael Madsen), Bill’s current girlfriend Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), and then Bill himself.
Vol. 1 is essentially a live action anime (Japanese animation), what with gallons of fake blood spraying everywhere, homage to the Green Hornet, and an amazing looking, snowy Japanese garden. It was filled to the brim with great moments of tension followed by high energy and fantastic choreography. I was exhausted when I left the theater.
Kill Bill: Vol. 2 is completely the opposite of its predecessor and it accomplishes way more than anyone could have possibly imagined. Quentin Tarantino’s East Meets West approach is defined like black and white and, even though the second film features 1/10th the action of the first one it is a far superior film in every way.
Uma wears the air of professional killer as “The Bride,” finally provided with an origin name: Beatrix Kiddo. We are also treated to the information that Beatrix and Bill were once a long-standing couple, killing with pleasure for one another. But what makes this film so utterly brilliant is the humanization of these professional killers.
When we meet Bud, we see that he’s a bouncer and janitor in a strip joint who’s about to lose his job due to not showing up for work too often. He is ridiculed daily and still lives in a trailer, parked in the middle of the desert. Not having been on speaking terms with his brother Bill, because he can be annoying as any real sibling, Bill still approaches Bud and warns him that Beatrix is on her way to kill them all and that she has a very sharp sword. Bud seems out of practice but looks in this film are terribly deceiving.
Elle is a monstrous person. Her ego’s through the roof and she’s as dangerous as they come.
I cannot ruin any of the battles that happen in this film except to say that not one of them lasts very long and that there’s a lot of that famous Tarantino dialogue in between them. This film features the best Tarantino dialogue since Pulp Fiction (1994) and when the audience fully meets Bill in the third act we are treated to the philosophical and paradoxical tale that set Beatrix’s revenge in motion; no one is to blame anymore. I will keep it a secret in case you hadn’t seen the film but Beatrix is at fault for remaining quiet and Bill is equally at fault for overreacting.
The cinematography and music are borrowed heavily from Sergio Leone’s most famous Westerns, and the dialogue is straight to the point. Carradine delivers the best performance of his long-lived career and Madsen is pretty awesome, too. Uma is fantastic as “The Bride” and as Beatrix Kiddo and when Bill delivers a brilliant monologue about secret identities involving Superman and his parallels to Beatrix, every cinephile is in heaven.
This is the best movie of 2004 because its screenplay, cinematography, and direction are masterful. The dialogue can be revisited a million times without growing tiresome or redundant and the performances are all top notch. Tarantino is known for having worked in a video store and after having watched every movie in it, he’d written three screenplays. They were Natural Born Killers, True Romance, and Reservoir Dogs. After Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown (1997), and Inglourious Basterds (2009) we can tell that he is truly the most original voice and auteur to have surfaced in North America in the last two decades.
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This review was published in conjunction with the Commentary Track “Best of the 2000s” series.