Sunday, April 18, 2004

Kill Bill, Volume 2 (2004)

Vacuum Energy rating: no stars
Background information about "Kill Bill: Vol. 2" is available at The Internet Movie Database

Here is the long awaited sequel to Vol. 1, in which The Bride finally tracks down and kills the remaining members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (Budd and Elle Driver) and their leader, Bill. To give director Quentin Tarantino credit, there is substantially less gore and violence in this installment, although if the gore and violence were what you liked about Vol. 1 then this film is going to be a major bummer. This movie almost seems to go in the opposite direction, as if the director was overreacting to the violence in the original by developing a horror of bloodshed in the sequel. This disconnect between original and sequel remains a constant throughout the film.

The first target of The Bride is Budd, who appears to have declined substantially from his days as international assassin making huge sums of money to barely getting by as the bouncer in a two-bit strip joint. He is warned by Bill that The Bride is coming for him, but Budd is willing to take his chances alone. This is all well and good since The Bride is speedily incapacitated by Budd when she just jumps through the front door with a sword even though she knows Budd is right there on the other side. And yet, since a movie titled Kill Bill can't have the main character predecease Bill, Budd merely knocks her down with a shotgun loaded with rock salt.

This sets up the first of the obligatory and characteristic scenes of Quentin Tarantino's work, which we might call a "Tarantino" moment, in which the slow motion threat of physical death confonting a character makes even the most ludicrous dialogue seem to have a psychological weight entirely out of proportion to it's literal meaning. In this first instance, we have The Bride unconscious at the feet of the evil Budd, lost to the world in the middle of nowheres, but for the most part Budd makes nothing of it. Budd does labor to have The Bride buried alive, which gives us Tarantino at his most sadistic as he shows as nearly as possible with the film medium what it is like to be buried alive, then cuts away for a flashback as soon as the last spade of dirt is tossed onto the coffin.

The second Tarantino moment is given to Elle Driver, who is offered The Bride's Hattori Hanzo sword by Budd in exchange for a million dollars. As she appreciates the sword, Budd is attacked by a black mamba hidden in his briefcase full of cash (to make it look like The Bride, aka Black Mamba was to blame) and swiftly declines into paralysis from the venom. As he dies, Elle decides to lecture him about a web page on the black mamba that she found interesting, but Budd and the audience for the most part could not care less. In any case, Elle Driver soon meets up with The Bride (you didn't think she'd really stay buried alive, did you?), and is given the film's one true gross-out moment while, suprisingly enough, allowed to survive a movie devoted to her character's death. A third Tarantino moment pops up near the end, but given that it occurs in flashback, it plays like a listless pro forma concession, as if every Tarantino movie had to have three such moments and Vol. 2 was one short.

As for Bill, it turns out that he's been living a pretty comfortable life with The Bride's (and his) daughter. Given The Bride's aversion for violence in front of children, and some residual respect that she shares with Bill, the final death is only achieved after a considerable length of time tying up loose ends. And when the time finally comes for the climactic battle, Bill is killed in a few moments of fighting in a way that leaves no physical marks and which gives him a few moments to prepare for a dignified exit. Given the strange resignation of these characters to their fates, you could be forgiven if you thought they they basically all wanted to die, which in yet another way makes the strange driving passion of The Bride to kill them all the more bizarre. The movie's point seems largely to be that everyone could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had all just not bothered in the first place.


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