Kill Bill: Vol. 2

Reviewed By Robert Flaxman
Posted 10/10/04 05:26:18

"From bad to worse."
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

Remember the scene in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back where Mark Hamill has his cameo in the "Bluntman and Chronic" movie, and Kevin Smith put up the title "Hey Kids! It's Mark Hamill!" on the screen when he first showed up? (I mean, I hope for your sake that you don't... but just pretend you do.) Well, Quentin Tarantino might as well have put signs like that all over the place in Kill Bill, because it was so obvious where specific homages started and ended.

Look. It's one thing to be an homage filmmaker, and fill your film(s) with references to other movies you really liked. It's quite another thing to essentially pause the action, run out on screen, point excitedly, and then let things resume. It makes the entire proceedings stilted.

And that's basically what Tarantino does in Kill Bill: Volume Two. But to be fair, he basically has to. Remember, this wasn't originally supposed to be two movies. Tarantino may not think the padding is evident, but it is. What so many people loved about the first volume was how "kinetic" it was. Far too much of the action was absorbed in genre-referencing martial arts sequences, but no matter. At least something was going on.

Not so in Volume Two. The biggest problem Tarantino has is that after Pulp Fiction came out, somebody told him he could write. And he could... ten years ago. Kill Bill suffers from the affliction suffered by all the imitators Tarantino spawned with Fiction - it really, really thinks that it's cool... and it really, really isn't. You can almost see the desperation in the words falling from the actors' mouths, as though Tarantino himself is sticking his head into the frame and going, "Was that cool? That was kinda cool, right? Come on, just give me one!"

It doesn't help that, for a climax, the film is woefully anti-climactic. Just like in Volume One, Tarantino opens the film by telegraphing us past the Bride's initial victims, thus removing any sense of danger from otherwise dangerous stuff like swordfights and being buried alive. Okay, so maybe the title of the film and/or common sense already telegraphed the end of the movie. It doesn't really alleviate the problem.

The best part of the film is undoubtedly David Carradine, who exudes his own brand of cool as Bill, but Tarantino even proceeds to ruin that by turning Bill into a talking head by the end of the film. Again, Tarantino may think something like Bill's monologue about comic book characters has pop culture cachet, like Pulp Fiction's references to "Happy Days" and a million other things... but this isn't 1994. Whether his schtick is getting old or whether he's just doing a hack job on himself is a question for the ages, but not one that matters in terms of this particular film's quality.

All this and the plot has lost its enjoyment factor, even at the basest level. We want to see the Bride get revenge in the first film. By the end of the second, she's been stripped of pretty much any reason to, and given absurdly many chances. (Michael Madsen's Budd, in Bond-villain fashion, buries the Bride alive after getting the jump on her, but gives her a flashlight as if he wants her to escape, which just seems silly.) After a bunch of overly-cute faux-revelations - Budd and Bill are brothers! (Who cares.) Kiddo is not just Bill's nickname for the Bride, it's her actual last name! (Not funny.) - it's time for the final showdown between Bill and the Bride, but by that point, the Bride scarcely seems to have a reason to be there. Her desire was to get out of the killing game - but she's forced back into it. Then Bill gives her some truth serum, at which point she admits she really liked all the killing.

Well, good message to send there. I know Tarantino's too busy writing visual royalty checks to notice how absurdly his film glorifies violence, but the bigger problem is that it lies for a while and claims that it isn't doing so, even while the events onscreen betray that claim.

Basically, Kill Bill - as a whole, but especially the second volume - is everything it thinks it's not. It isn't cool, it just thinks it is (for yet another example, try the pointless Samuel L. Jackson cameo - and you know your movie isn't cool when Sam Jackson looks like he's trying way too hard to be cool); it glorifies violence while seeming to wish it weren't doing so. It's a great big homage-filled train wreck of a movie, and as bad as Volume One was on this count, Volume Two actually succeeds in being worse. And those were tough shoes to fill.

What do you suppose are the odds we can get Tarantino to go away for another seven years?

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