Review: 'Kill Bill Vol. 2' sharp, splendid
Movie expands, deepens elements of 'Vol. 1'
By Paul Clinton
(CNN) -- "Kill Bill Vol. 2" starts off with a black-and-white extreme close-up of Uma Thurman. She's driving a convertible and as her character, the Bride, she speaks directly into the camera.
"I've killed a hell of a lot of people to get to this point," she purrs. "I went on what the movie advertisements referred to as a roaring rampage of revenge."
Not a bad summation of "Kill Bill Vol. 1."
But with "Kill Bill Vol. 2," Quentin Tarantino has made a rip-roaring, highly entertaining, extremely enjoyable continuation to "Vol. 1": a work that flows perfectly from the first film while, at the same time, managing to alter the tone, pacing and even the look of its predecessor.
("Kill Bill Vol. 2" isn't a sequel in the Hollywood sense of the term, incidentally; the two films were shot as one and released in two chapters.)
The first film was about revenge and featured more stage blood than Sam Peckinpah and Mel Gibson combined could ever imagine.
This second one, believe it or not, is about love -- albeit a Tarantino kind of love. Yes, there is blood involved, but it's a love story, nevertheless.
Sex and death
Uma Thurman, as the Bride, is handy with a sword -- and a gun.
After Thurman's monologue, Tarantino takes the audience back to the chapel where the first film began. But this time he takes us back just a bit earlier, to the point right before the Bride and her wedding party were gunned down by Bill's assassination squad in "Vol. 1."
We see events leading up to the killings, including a pivotal scene between the Bride and Bill.
The film then flashes forward to what is now the real beginning of "Vol. 2." It's an excellent way of making the second film accessible even if you haven't seen the first. (I do urge everyone to see "Vol. 1" before seeing "Vol. 2," though. It makes for a much more fulfilling experience.)
In the first movie Bill (David Carradine) was heard in voice-over, but only seen in one brief shot. In "Vol. 2," he's front and center, and we discover who he is and how he formed his gang of assassins, the "Deadly Viper Assassination Squad," or DiVAS.
Basically Bill is a pimp, but instead of sex, he trades in death.
Now we meet a mysterious white-eyebrowed monk, with a long matching beard. He's Pei Mei (Gordon Liu), an old man who is a legendary Chinese master in the martial arts. He trained Bill and all of the DiVAS, a group that originally included O'Ren-Ishii (Lucy Liu), known as Cottonmouth, and Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), nicknamed Copperhead. Both were both disposed of during glorious bloodbaths in "Vol. 1."
The movie shows the brutal training the Bride and the others endured to become killing machines. Reportedly, Tarantino -- who began his career as an actor and has appeared in some of this films -- wanted to play Pei Mei. But he finally decided he couldn't commit to all the training required, while at the same time directing this complicated film.
The DiVAS stand outside the wedding chapel, ready to cause destruction.
Pei Mei also trained Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), aka California Mountain Snake, and Bill's brother Budd (Michael Madsen), the only male member of the squad, who is also known as Sidewinder. These two are the only ones left (other than Bill) from the original assassination team.
Much of the second film is taken up with the separate battles between the Bride and her two nemeses as she picks them off one by one on her way to her main goal: killing Bill, of course.
Both confrontations are utterly sensational. They're exciting, innovative, extremely imaginative and pure Tarantino. The cat fight between Thurman and Hannah alone is worth the price of admission.
But it's the revelations in the final scenes -- and an exquisitely long dialogue sequence between Bill and the Bride -- that turn this movie into a twisted love story. It also shows Tarantino's genius at work.
Casting Carradine was also an act of inspiration. Originally Warren Beatty was considered for the role, but quite frankly that would have ruined the movie and turned it into some kind of "Playboy and his bunnies" parody. However, with Carradine's "Kung Fu" background and his innate sense of mystery, his Bill gives this film just the right amount of Asian flavor needed to anchor this story in the Far Eastern sensibilities loved so much by Tarantino.
Ultimately, "Kill Bill Vol. 2" is an astounding conclusion to Tarantino's epic tale, and Uma Thurman is nothing short of magnificent.
"Kill Bill Vol. 2" opens nationwide on Friday, April 16, and is rated R.