Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) / Action-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for violence, language, and brief drug use
Running Time: 136 min.
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Darryl Hannah, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Review published June 18, 2004
Surprisingly flaccid stuff from flashy filmmaker, Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs, Jackie Brown), who once again falls so in love with his own characters and his prolific imagination, that the second part of his split three-hour movie almost creeps toward the three-hour mark itself. Padded to excess, Kill Bill Vol. 2 is about three solid scenes stuffed in between about 20 that could easily have been trimmed down, or excised altogether. The pacing and direction is quite different than Vol. 1, which managed to elevate itself from its derivative inclinations through the exhilarating back-and-forth styles and set pieces. Vol. 2 is a dull film from one of the sharpest minds in the industry, a man who really would have done himself a world of good by keeping the entire production, Vol. 1 and 2, to the length of this one alone. Thanks for letting us see all the deleted scenes before the DVD comes out, Quentin.
The plot is still as simple as can be. In this half, we find The Bride (Thurman, Gattaca) still seeking revenge on the people that ruined her life and left her for dead, including the titular Bill (Carradine, Death Race 2000).
As a writer of dialogue, Tarantino is terrific. As a director, he has his moments, but clearly, most of his best moments are blatant plagiarism of other more visionary directors. As a conceptual editor, Tarantino is his own worst enemy, never knowing when enough is enough. If you were to trim down Vol. 1, then inject about a half hour of Vol. 2's expository elements, you could make a great movie. Alas, like Tarantino did for his overly saggy, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 2 is full of lengthy moments of inaction, neither pushing the story forward, nor entertaining. Watching this film, it is unclear why Tarantino insisted on keeping all of it, but the answer probably lies in the label for which he will probably be stuck with his entire career: egotism.
This film is talky -- much more so than Vol. 1. This shouldn't be such a bad thing, as Tarantino's films are usually more fun through the interactions between the characters alone, but not so in Vol. 2. The pacing of the conversations drags on without much humor or character value. Lots of close-ups, lots of camera angles, but whatever's being said proves to be the least interesting thing going on in many scenes. Tarantino's biggest fans will be too busy desperately milking each syllable as the mutterings of genius to care, but your standard moviegoers will probably opt to stretch their legs, grab some popcorn, or spend some quality time in the restroom, only to not miss a beat upon their return.
So is it all bad? No, like I said, the film has its moments. Carradine is particularly strong in his best performance in many years, and the rest of the cast do the best they can within the limitations of the narrowly defined characters. The spaghetti Western look and feel to the flashback scenes is rife with homage, as is the martial arts training sequence with another nod to the Shaw Brothers. Famous music and classic cinematic styles are recreated well, but with all of the stealing, how much of what we see should we really attribute to the "genius" of Tarantino? Outside of a Superman monologue delivered late into the film, I say, very little. Like a hip hop producer who samples loops and riffs, Tarantino utilizes the vision of others and adds his own dialogue over it, and while the remix may be of good quality, he is no more a great director than a DJ is a great musician.
The Tarantino staple is to include as many scenes of torture as possible, and Vol. 2 doesn't skimp on this, so all lovers of senseless brutality should enjoy the last chapter of Tarantino's pastiche. Viewers who enjoy good storytelling, especially taut pacing and superb character development, will come away empty-handed, as the overwhelming bloat and scattershot vision ultimately makes this an unfocused and undisciplined effort. This one's strictly for Tarantino's biggest idolizers -- those who are not savvy enough to know that almost every shot, character, or plot point originally came from someone other than Quentin himself.
©2004 Vince Leo