Somehow, in the span of 2 minutes (movie time) Quentin Tarantino fully deconstructs the mythology of Superman. And yet with this brilliant character discovery a Superman movie is the most difficult to adapt from comic to screen. It somehow can’t be done. The duality of Superman and Clark Kent is uncrackable. But that’s beside the point. The story is being defectively told to Beatrix Kiddo aka The Bride aka Black Mamba (Uma Thurman) by Bill aka Snake Charmer (David Carradine) who compares the duality to Beatrix risking her life to leave Bill and The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad to become someone she isn’t by working at a used record store and marrying the owner Tommy (Chris Nelson). The whole act is a façade, a distraction, something to justify her actions, but deep down she will always be a killer.
Tarantino along with Carradine’s delivery clings to the ear. As a viewer every word spoken can be hung on to as if Carradine is speaking directly to those who are watching him. The line between actor and character is blurred – he embodies Bill, the face that was never seen in Volume 1. In this moment, Carradine is at his most lethal. We understand how these people are under his spell. The cold, chilling voice in Volume 1 is now suddenly softer and comforting yet dangerous at the flip of a dime.
Picking up where she left off with her trusty Hattori Hanzo katana, the word is out, Beatrix (the name is bleeped once more) is on her way to kill her next targets Budd aka Sidewinder (Michael Madsen) and Ellie aka California Mountain Snake (Daryl Hannah). In between that Tarantino uses his time to show the longer version of the El Paso massacre that put Beatrix in a 4-year coma to Beatrix training with Pai Mei (Gordon Liu) who also trained Bill and Ellie and was the reason Ellie wears an eye path.
Tarantino sticks to his non-linear method of telling this story. The talented director doesn’t take shortcuts, he would rather dive deeper into a rabbit hole to fully explain the context of a situation, or a skill Beatrix has mastered and can use to her advantage. It is appreciated to a degree, but the result makes Kill Bill Volume 2 unnecessarily longer than it must be. We know Beatrix is the most dangerous woman on the planet – it’s a fact about her character that was immediately understood in Volume 1. She’s unkillable – what more proof do we need.
After the story picks back up in present day and Beatrix is in an unbearable situation that is sure to trigger those who are claustrophobic (I’m not and the scene made me uncomfortable), The Bride sucker kicks Ellie and the two duel it out in Budd’s trailer home. Adding another element of danger, Ellie tricks Budd out of their deal to give Ellie Beatrix’s Hanzo katana. It’s bloody, brutal, and messy but its poetic in its chaos. These two women don’t like each other at all – Hannah and Thurman sell it during their brawl – the shock value remains the same. It may not be as grandioso as Volume 1’s spectacle ending of Beatrix cutting down the Crazy 88 – this fight is personal – it’s not explicit but at least Tarantino lets us interpret what could have made the blood boil between the two vipers.
Both Volume 1 & Volume 2 could have been told in one take with a lot of the fat trimmed from Volume 2 to tell a complete story. But either way, telling the story in two parts still works leading up to the grand finale that is more finale than grand. Once Beatrix finds Bill thanks to Esteban (Michael Parks), her world once again is flipped upside down. Only this time it’s her emotional state that gets attacked rather than the physical pummeling she had to endure all these years. Though we as the audience know what Beatrix doesn’t in this moment, the discovery is still shocking to see Uma’s perfect reaction as her character.
It’s in that moment that Uma nails her character more so than she did in the previous volume she and Quentin created. Beatrix has been shot in the head, left for dead in a coma for 4 years all while believing the reason she left Bill in the first place was taken from her. Beatrix has endured way more punishment than any human should ever have to deal with but her thirst for revenge has pushed her when anyone else would give up and die. Beatrix lives up to the legend – she is the most dangerous woman on the planet, and she will make that point abundantly clear if anyone questions it or stands in her way.
Tarantino, for 5 films has his foot firmly on the gas. He doesn’t relent when criticized about how much violence is put in his films. If I’m not mistaken and I can’t know this to be true for certain, he’s steadily adding more with each film to see what he can get away with. His use of violence has all the substance to it – he injects violence to compliment his well thought out and planned story. Kill Bill is a story of a person’s revenge so of course there will be a lot of severed limbs and blood spurting from said limbs. The universe in which these characters live is so far removed from reality, the realism within this stylistic world makes sense.
Kill Bill Volume 2 represents the full slate of Tarantino’s influences. Westerns, Asian and Martial Art films all blended into one stylistic underdog story of survival. Tarantino pays homage to these genres rather than parodying them. Within his world is the utmost respect for what came before – RZA and Robert Rodriguez’s score pound the ear drums into submission that has taken on a life of its own. Both volumes are a shock to the system – getting into an ice bath, stepping out of your comfort zone, or facing your deepest fears. Tarantino creates a technical powerhouse over two films blending different styles to create one cohesive story while Uma Thurman continues to shine under his direction.
And of course, there’s a close-up on feet.
Written By: Quentin Tarantino
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Music By: RZA & Robert Rodriguez
Cinematography: Robert Richardson
Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks
Release Date: April 16, 2004
Running Time: 2 Hours 14 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
My Score: 3.5 out of 5
Based On: The Bride by Quentin Tarantino & Uma Thurman