Our Robert Nagle has written a fine piece decrying the squandering of precious resources and viewer-time on filmic bloodbaths. In general I agree with him, and for me, screen violence – and certainly gore – have no inherent appeal unto themselves.
But I disagree with him about the merits of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill 2, which he sees as a silly exercise in violent mediocrity – I think Kill Bill 2is great, on an entirely different level than the pure stylistic exercise of Kill Bill 1, which was about as relentlessly bloody as it gets – pure adrenaline debauchery.
And KB2 isn’t a ripoff of its obvious choppy-socky, samurai honor-flick, and spaghetti-Western influences, but a summation and examination of their underlying meaning – do their values apply in the post-modern West? Can vengeance be justice? Is vengeance inherently degrading? Is there honor in “honor”?
In addition, the relatively infrequent (compared to KB1) and circumspect violence in 2, for me, had real weight and import – the opposite of the kinetic exploitation thrill-ride that was 1. For me KB1 was the first part of, “I can tell this story THIS way,” and KB2 is “or I can tell it THAT way,” and “THAT way” turns exploitation back on itself and finds humanity and meaning there.
KB2 is deeply character-driven, takes on Fate and Will with a clear eye and seriousness of purpose; and Uma Thurman – as the severely put-upon former hit-woman out to avenge the murder of her entire wedding party and attempted murder of herself – is nothing short of astonishing. David Carradine and Michael Madsen are almost equally fine. The long, slow scenes with Thurman and Carradine (as Bill) at the end are almost unbearable in their gentility and accumulating tension; then, finally, moving and poetic in the inevitable outcome.
I see KB2 as the fulfillment of Tarrantino’s promise – as riveting and spirited, but far less glib than his previous high-point Pulp Fiction. KB2 had a real and lasting impact on me – it has penetrated my psyche with the force of myth.
KB2 isn’t perfect, of course – Tarantino still can’t resist the impulse toward too-clever-by-half dialogue, but here it is the exception rather than the rule. Above all, Tarantino et al have created something profound and oddly touching: there ARE better and worse ways to live, actions DO have consequences and karma is a bitch; the best stories have a logic of their own.