In the Making of Kill Bill Volume 1 featurette on the DVD, Quentin Tarantino said that he always thought action directors were often the best directors out there. He also said that he thought Kill Bill was to basically test out his talent as a director, in doing his first, true action film. Well, he aced that test of his talent in Volume 1 with some unbelievable action. In Volume 2, he goes back to his old style, with extensive, crisp narrative, unique humor and some great twists and turns. While the first one is just a tad better than Volume 2, the finale definitely doesn't disappoint, in this wonderful conclusion to the tale of The Bride.
Volume 2 starts out with The Bride (Thurman) driving to the last person she has to kill, Bill (Carradine). But then we go back to where this all started, the wedding where she was to be killed, although we find out it's actually a wedding rehearsal. Because of the odd structure, I really shouldn't tell you anymore, other than the movie does tie up all its loose ends, and answers all the questions we had from the first volume.
What I can tell you, though, is that I'm actually glad he split the movie up, now that I've seen the whole thing. From what I understand, nothing was really changed in the movie, besides probably a few transitions at the end of Volume 1 and the beginning of Volume 2. If it wouldn't all been released as one big-ass movie, it really would've felt like 2 different movies, because the tone is definitely different. The first volume is damn-near all action, and little exposition, and the second volume is damn-near the polar opposite. And, besides that, after the huge cliffhanger Tarantino left us with in the first volume, you just have to see how it all turns out, and making people wait will just make them want to see it more. Well, enough of the Marketing 101 lesson. On with the review!
The performances in Volume 2 are much more rich than in Volume 1. I'm not knocking the performances in the first volume at all. I think they all did a wonderful job. But the acting here just called for a lot more, with more character development and dialogue. We see a lot more of Daryl Hannah here, as Elle Driver, and she is just wonderful as the cycloped assassin. It appears that Tarantino likes to pluck once-famous actors from obscurity and put them in his films. In Pulp Fiction, it was John Travolta. In Jackie Brown, it was Robert Forster. In Reservoir Dogs, it was...well, pretty much everybody. Anyway, in Kill Bill, it's Daryl Hannah, and she shines in a role we've never really seen her in before. But someone we have seen like this before is Michael Madsen, who is great here as well as Budd. Tarantino really brings out the best in him, because he's never as great as he is in QT films than he is in other movies. We didn't see a whole lot of David Carridine as the illustrious Bill in the first movie, but we see plenty of him here. Actually, Carradine is another once-famous actor who we haven't seen much of lately. But Carradine is perfectly cast as Bill, and he shows us a little bit of everything with this character. And then there's The Bride, portrayed wonderfully by Uma Thurman. She brings out everything in this character in this volume, and, if I may be so presumptuous, she gives the best female lead performance of the year, so far. But my favorite performance has to be from Gordon Liu, who played Johnny Mo in the first volume, as the martial-arts master Pai Mei. He is just hilarious here as the moody mentor who teaches The Bride how to be a warrior. His look is just wonderful, his action is blistering and his humor is right on the money.
Tarantino's script is really great, but some parts of it provide for the movies only minor problems. Like Tarantino's other works, Volume 2 is very dialogue-heavy, with long passages of dialogue that just don't seem to fit in some parts. This style fit just perfectly with his other movies, because it seemed more natural for the characters in those films. But after seeing the action onslaught in the first volume, these big stretches of dialogue don't seem to work as well here. Granted, there is some great humor and character development in these parts, but they stretch just a little too long. Otherwise, the script is very funny, with some great plot twists and the dialogue is great, even though there is too much of it in places. This tale ends rather nicely, reminding me of The Long Kiss Goodnight. I won't spoil it, but some elements of this movie reminded me of that movie. Oh, and if you're a big fan of QT, look for some subtle references to his earlier works...even a movie he just got a story credit for, and didn't direct, hint hint. Anyway, the script is great, and he caps off his big action tale very nicely.
Tarantino delivers once again in the directors chair as well. His style is very distinct, and you can recognize a lot of different elements from his other works, for example, his use of lighting in some instances. He is a true autuer, folks, of a caliber we probably won't see again for years to come. While his work in the first volume might be more impressive, with all the amazing action, his work here is not to be slighted. He brings out more drama and emotion in this volume and he has proved that he can do anything and everything with a film, in a way that no one else could possibly accomplish.
Kill Bill Volume 2 gives us a smashing finish to a smashing beginning. It's more subtle somber, but it's just as wild a ride as the first volume. The action is toned down, but the drama and laughs are turned up in the incredible final chapter of the tale that enhances Tarantino's place as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.
Kill Bill Vol. 2 is out April 16, 2004.