Ever watch a movie in a theater and leave being completely unsure about what you’ve just seen? You get into the car and just kind of stare blankly at the dash, baffled by what just unfolded. “Kill Bill Vol. 1″ was one of those movies except for the fact that I stared at my TV screen after watching the DVD. I was confused, unsure if what I had just seen was entertaining. “Kill Bill Vol. 2″ solved my quandary.
The Bride (Uma Thurman), having finished off two people from her “list,” immediately begins seeking vengeance on the final three people who tried murdering her during a wedding rehearsal. Budd (Michael Madsen), Elle (Daryl Hannah), and of course Bill himself (David Carradine), prepare for the wrath of the Bride. What she doesn’t know is that her daughter is actually alive and in the hands of Bill.
Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” opens with an ingenious segment in which all of the films main characters are finishing off a meal. The segment leads into a highly entertaining argument about tipping the waitress. Though it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film, this single scene enables viewers to get a feel for each of the characters in brilliant fashion. The snappy and witty dialogue the director is famous for tries to be transferred into this second chapter of the “Kill Bill” saga. One has to wonder what went wrong.
This is a film so wildly different from the first you have to wonder how they can be connected (they are technically the same movie, simply split into two parts). Where the first edition was kinetic, fast, and full of energy, this second part is dull, lifeless, and lacks any real tension. You would have to be an idiot not to figure out that Bill would meet his demise by the end of the film.
The plot of the entire saga is as paper-thin as an ancient 8-bit video game: “You’re out for revenge against those that betrayed you! Fight off the 5 bosses and give them what they deserve!” Of course, that’s really not what’s important here. Tarantino is as gifted as they come with a camera and it shows here. Even if you know nothing about the way a film is made, you will still appreciate some of the shots produced here. The acting is also great, particularly David Carradine. The problem here is that the maddening pace and dialogue just don’t work.
In a nearly 20-minute scene, Tarantino gives a wonderful homage to 70′s Chinese kung-fu films with Gordon Lu playing the old and wise martial arts expert. While certainly a well produced segment (probably the best in the film, including the classic quick-zoom camera shots) it’s only purpose is to give an explanation for how The Bride finds her way out of an early tomb in ridiculous fashion.
Most of the character-oriented segments here are not the least bit entertaining, funny, or dramatic. The characters that were so wild and fun in the first film are nowhere to be found. Gone is the dark comedy from the opening scene from part one. Gone are the wonderfully over-the-top and wonderfully shot fight scenes. All that’s left are some minor conversations that really have no reason to be included.
In this one, we get a drunken bouncer and a woman who’s only purpose is to add a minor piece to the Gordon Lu segment mentioned above. Nearly all of their conversations are useless. Towards the end, Thurman makes a stop in Mexico, which I see absolutely no reason for. Usually in a Tarantino film this is welcome pacing, but here they just don’t have underlying comedy that fills his other films like “Pulp Fiction.”
Admittedly, the final 30-minutes are great, if only for David Carradine’s outstanding performance. This is the point of the movie where the dialogue finally kicks into the Tarantino style. It just works, even if he does drag on a bit too long. Carradine rambles on about a dead, stepped on fish, and other completely insane topics, all the while making his character even more inherently evil. THAT’S what this movies dialogue needed for the entire running time: Purpose. (** out of *****)
Miramax presents “Kill Bill Vol. 2″ in 2.35:1 widescreen, preserving the wonderful cinematography the way it should be. The color is here is way over the top, but it looks gorgeous and it all holds together. Some severe edge enhancement is noticeable early on, but about a half-hour in, you won’t notice it again. A few of the scenes have excessive grain, but this is usually for effect. The black-and-white segments have excellent black and contrast levels. Compression is never an issue, making this one just shy of reference quality. (****)
Viewers have the option of listening to the film in either standard 5.1 or DTS. The DTS track seems almost unnecessary considering most of the film is front loaded, but the “buried alive” scene must be heard using the format. Only a few brief moments feature rear speaker usage. Fight scenes are disappointingly dull, even though they have numerous opportunities. The LFE channel is used effectively when it is called upon, but these are really the only highlights. (***)
It’s already been said (in a rather controversial style) that these films will eventually be treated to massive special editions, so the extras here are less than adequate. A roughly half-hour feature on the making of the film talks about some key scenes and how they were done, but interest level here is low. The only other extras include a brief deleted scene and a musical performance from the film’s premiere. (**)
This is a movie I was definitely looking forward to. I didn’t have the opportunity to see it in theaters, but it’s hard to believe the big screen would make this anymore tolerable. The few flashes of brilliance are marred by twice as many moments of sheer boredom. This is a film that needed to be trimmed down quite a bit before release.