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When KILL BILL VOLUME 1 was released last fall, I was sure to be there opening night. After all, this was the latest film from Quentin Tarantino, the man who brought some of the greatest films of the last decade. I was skeptical about KILL BILL for a multitude of reasons, but there wasn't anything in the world short of spontaneous combustion that was going to keep me out of the theater the first night of its release.
But with all of that anticipation, with all of the good words that Chad heaped upon it in his review, I was still a bit underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong -- I enjoyed the film, but I just wasn't blown away by it as I hoped I would be. I never reviewed it here, mainly because there was nothing I could say that would come close to matching the passion of Chad's very personal review of the film, but I sort of felt disappointed.
But I've finally figured out what was lacking in KILL BILL VOLUME ONE: It was missing KILL BILL VOLUME 2.
Because, quite frankly, KILL BILL, as one big movie, is fan-fucking-tastic. Being split into two movies may have been a wise idea from a marketing perspective, but the finished product is greater than the sum of its parts. But since this is strictly a review of KILL BILL VOLUME TWO and not KILL BILL the gestalt of the two films, I can only really critique the film I saw last night.
Yes, last night. Even though it's been out for two and a half week, I just got around to seeing KILL BILL VOLUME TWO last night. I know, I'm a bad movie buff. But considering how indifferent I was about part one, I wasn't nearly as hyped to see part two. Maybe that worked in my favor. Because there's one thing I can say with the utmost honesty:
KILL BILL VOLUME 2 is the coolest motherfucking thing I've ever seen in my life.
That may sound like hyperbole, but I really mean it. I can't think of a time where I enjoyed myself so much in a theater. And no, it's not the most emotionally jarring film of all time, and it doesn't have the most amazing action sequences, and it wasn't some moving piece of art. It was just cool. As many have said, KILL BILL is basically Quentin Tarantino's homage to everything he ever loved in the movies, and he does a bang-up job in capturing that here.
It's kind of tough to see it as a stand-alone film, because it is in fact the second half of one big movie. And while I'm generally opposed to the idea of films that require another film to "complete" them, I can't fault Q here. This was supposed to be one movie that was hacked up at the demand of the studio after the fact. But even so, there's enough groundwork laid at the beginning to cover the back story that you can get by without seeing part one.
When we last left The Bride at the end of KILL BILL VOLUME ONE, she had completed the second leg of her revenge tour. After polishing off Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) and O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), we head to part two, where she's still got three to go: Budd (Michael Madsen), Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), and finally, as the title might imply, Bill (David MF'n Carradine).
Now I won't bore you with a plot summary, but I will point out why this is the coolest thing I've ever seen. Each character gets a nicely drawn-out introduction, to really seal how nasty they really are and why the Bride wants to kill them. On top of that, we finally get the full flashback of the whole massacre that started this whole thing to begin with. Samuel L. Jackson gets a blink-and-you'll-miss-him cameo. There's a balls-out fight sequence in a trailer. Eyeballs get plucked and squished between toes.
And then, we get to the training sequence. And well, this just rules.
Gordon Liu plays Pai Mei, a Kung Fu master borrowed directly from a martial arts flick you might spot at 3 in the morning in the high reaches of the UHF spectrum. If this isn't enough of an homage, everything changes all of a sudden. The film is suddenly a lot grainer. The music climbs out from the worst dubs of the 1970's. The camerawork comes straight out of the genre as well, sharply zooming in and out. It's easy to make this sort of homage contrived, as has been demonstrated by about 37 trillion films who have fallen flat in an attempt to emulate it, but Tarantino knows what he's doing. This is what he was born to do.
The scene works for a lot of reasons, not only to break up the action and provide a little more story on our heroine, but also to move smoothly into the next portion of the film. Because, as a watcher, I got a little worried that I was coming upon a scene of suckitude at one point. Budd manages to get the better of The Bride early on, and puts her in a situation that looks like it's going to be impossible to escape. Of course, we know she's gonna do it, and my fear was that no matter how it happens, it's gonna suck. But they managed to do it without it sucking at all, using elements from the previous sequence. And for that, I applaud Q.
The film trucks along until it's time for the final confrontation with Bill. And man, this whole sequence is awesome. It manages to roll a love story and an unexpected reunion into this violent tale of revenge. It's really fucking emotional and so well-done on so many levels that I can't even begin to describe it. But I will say this: There was a moment or two toward the beginning of the film where I thought that maybe Quentin was going to go all ironic on us and not Kill Bill after all. But after one particular flashback scene involving The Bride (don't worry, they eventually do tell you her name) and Bill on a camping trip (leading into the kickass Pai Mei training sequence mentioned earlier) I not only knew that Bill was going to die, but just how Bill was going to die. Oh, and I was right on both counts.
So in summation, KILL BILL as one film is an amazing piece of work. KILL BILL VOLUME ONE is the weaker half of that equation, but KILL BILL VOLUME TWO more than makes up for it and helps tie the whole thing together. You can even tell by the credits that Quentin still considers this one film: the closing credits for Part One are pretty generic and cover only that half; but the closing credits for Part Two cover the whole shebang, and are stylish and colorful.
So if you happen to be anything like me, and have been holding out on Part Two because you were less than amazed by the first half, do yourself a favor and go see KILL BILL VOLUME TWO right now. It'll blow your fucking mind.
Want a second opinion of this film? Take a look at Ron Hogan's review over at Living Corpse dot com!
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