|Kill Bill, Vol. 2|
USA, 2004. Rated PG-13. 115 minutes.
Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, Gordon Lui, Michael Parks, Perla Haney-Jardine
|Grade: A-||Commentary by Frances Nicole Rogers|
Note: The following commentary contains spoilers for Kill Bill, Vol. 1, and Kill Bill, Vol. 2.
eeks are taking over the world.
Don't be surprised by the revelation. Ever since Bill Gates became the richest man in the world, geeks have steadily taken every industry they infiltrate into their nerdy control without apology. Hollywood has already fallen in line with the computer industry. When Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith burst into the scene in the mid-90's, Hollywood should have gotten its anti-geek repellant ready. It's too late now. Tarantino and Smith have been followed by a swarm of geekboy directors, the overzealous offspring of the Martin Scorsese School of Fanatical Film Love, masters of homage, anxious to declare their love and knowledge of the cinema. They eventually took over the old school of critically acclaimed and financially successful directors and made their own films that spawned unfortunate rip-offs (in the case of Tarantino, Suicide Kings and Two Days in the Valley, among many). While many of them have created notable films and a distinguishable style of their own, none can hold a candle to Tarantino.
The pinnacle of modern geekboy cinema is Quentin Tarantino's kung-fu opus, Kill Bill, intentionally littered with references to Tarantino's geeky passions, from martial arts to comic book superheroes, classic movies, and whatever else he feels like adding. This cornucopia of references is contained in a horn that is undeniably geek—the tounge-in-cheek, smirking overtone that defines the geek demeanor, and the underlying seriousness that legitimizes the devotion of the geek. Tarantino is a proud movie geek, and he'll be a monkey's uncle he doesn't get everyone to dig it.
Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, Vol. 2
His geekiness is endearing, but it's also what made Kill Bill, Vol.1 tedious. It was a disaster of self-indulgence that paid no heed to story and character, but rather sang the undying song of Tarantino's brilliance, the common disease of geekboy directors who pay more attention to themselves than their stories. The only brilliant thing about Volume 1 was that it removed all the saturated fat from Volume 2, wherein is the actual story. Here the Bride (Uma Thurman), aka Beatrix, gets closer to doing just as the title says, with two more ex-associates from the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad left to go. However, just as she's closing in to kill Budd (Michael Madsen), a.k.a. Sidewinder—bang! Drama! Suspense! Tension! Our heroine is in trouble, and it looks like she might not make it to her destination after all (anyone who believes that hasn't seen any movies or television). Yet she does not know what the audience has known since Volume 1, that someone else dearer to her heart is waiting for her with Bill.
After the mind-numbing violence of Volume 1, it's only reasonable, and indeed most wise, that Tarantino would take a lengthy break from the action and devote time to the story. Volume 2 opens with an atmospheric flashback to the “Massacre at Five Points,” the bloody ambush of Beatrix's wedding rehearsal that set her “roaring rampage of revenge” in motion. Here Beatrix and Bill share one last peaceful conversation before their relationship turns deadly sour. The scene ends with the remaining Deadly Vipers, including the already executed O-Ren Ishii/Cottonmouth (Lucy Lui) and Vernita Green/Copperhead (Vivica A. Fox), and the pending Budd and Elle Driver/California Mountain Snake (Daryl Hanna), crashing the rehearsal. The camera pans away from the chapel before the audience can see any bloodshed.
It takes over 30 minutes before anything even slightly comparable to the action of Vol. 1 comes into play in Vol. 2. In the meantime, we get a deeper understanding of the relationship between Beatrix and Bill (though the best is yet to come) and a look at the life of Budd, who works an unsatisfying job at a strip club. This digression is overlong and one of the many sequences that could have benefited from editing, but it establishes a necessary conflict between Budd and the world that makes his apparent defeat of Beatrix poignant and ironic. Beatrix has won every battle she's fought; Budd hasn't.
When Budd catches “the cowgirl that ain't never been caught,” he promptly buries her alive and leaves her for dead. Beatrix escapes, but not before remembering the “Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei” (the title of Chapter 7), a silly flashback where Beatrix is accepted as Pai Mei's (Gordon Lui) student faster than she can say “ow.” He trains her to become the tail-kicking, wood-splitting heroine she is now, and inspires her eventual escape from the grave.
Chapter 8, “Elle and I,” the fight between Beatrix and Elle, follows, and leads to the final chapter, “Face to Face,” wherein Beatrix and Bill confront each other. The final scenes between Beatrix and Bill are loaded with rich character and story development that explains, but doesn't necessarily justify, the preceding violence. Bill “overreacted” to Beatrix's flight, that much is understood, but why the Deadly Vipers had to die and why they broke from Bill in the first place remains unsaid.
Regardless of this flaw, Kill Bill, Vol. 2., is better than its predecessor and thus a worthier entry into the world of geekboy cinema. It is not an ode to the coolness of one director, but to the joy of the cinema using non-stop cinegeekery to serve a story, not an ego. Vol. 2 is one long love letter to the cinema and everything about it.
Commentary © May 2004 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2004 Miramax Films. All Rights Reserved.
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