Stars: *** 1/2
Rating: R for intense violence, nudity and language
Run Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes
Quentin Tarantino veers a sharp right in his quest to guide the second Kill Bill installment off the beaten path.† More character driven and less action-adventurish, Volume 2 is the real deal.
The man himself (David Carradine as Bill) is front and center as the object of Beatrix Kiddo aka The Brideís (Uma Thurman) bloodthirsty desire.† To backstory a bit, a very pregnant Beatrix was left for dead on her wedding day and came to vivid life four years later with revenge coursing through her veins.† After annihilating two of the assassins sent by Bill to destroy her, Beatrix was bent on snaking her way through the homicidal pecking order.
Having made quick work of Copperhead (Vivica Fox) and O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), renegade killer Beatrix sets her sights on the remaining members of Billís Deadly Viper Assassination Squad; trailer-trashy Budd (Michael Madsen) and the venomous Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah).† With more dialogue and less foreplay (not to mention swordplay), Beatrix The Bride wields her whipsmart words and smackdown skills with slick and sinister aplomb.†
Flashbacks detail Beatrixís painful assassin training under the tutelage of Master Pai Mei (Gordon Liu) and the sanguineous chapel blues that were the final act of her attempt to leave a life of bloodshed behind her.† Pai Meiís brutal tough love approach has rendered Beatrix a virtual fighting machine, capable of extracting herself from the most malignant situations.
Death a la Tarantino is a rich and gruesome fate.† Permanent paralysis at the fangs of a deadly Black Mamba.† Coffin-ated and buried alive courtesy Danish thriller The Vanishing (leaving me in a wet-rag sweat).† A mano a mano catfight offering a startling exclamation point to the concept of bitch-slap. And the perennial movie classic, the five-point palm exploding heart technique, learned at the hands of the wicked Pai Mei.
Kill Bill 2 treads emotional waters that barely rippled the surface of Volume 1. Motivations examined, vulnerabilities implied and understood.† Tarantino has crafted an invigorating film experience encompassing a hedonistic smorgasbord of technique; balletic violence, deep-dish discourses, and relentless homage to his beloved spaghetti westerns and chop-socky classics.
Thurman knocks one out of the park as The Bride, swaddled in the security of her thirst for revenge while fanatically pursuing her goal: to kill Bill.† Hannah is a malevolent delight as Thurmanís vicious, eye-patched rival, and Carradine embodies the essence of the Kill Bill sensibility; cruel, villainous and bewitchingly acid-tongued. Payback has never felt so sickly sweet.