Violence, revenge, style, music, and Uma Thurman. It’s time for another volume of Kill Bill.
R for Violence, language, brief drug use
When last we left The Bride, AKA Black Momba (Thurman), she had gotten final revenge on two of her former colleagues in crime. She still has three names on her list to cross out: Budd (Michael Madsen), Elle (Daryl Hannah), and Bill (David Carradine).
When The Bride finds him, Budd is living an alcohol-fueled life of regret in a ramshackle trailer in the middle of the desert. He works at a “titty bar” in a tiny desert town, putting up with verbal abuse from his boss and throwing himself at the feet of the dancers. But he still has a strong survival instinct, as The Bride finds out.
When Budd tells Elle that he has killed Black Momba, who inexplicably had a brand-new Hattori Hanzo sword, Elle comes to pay her disrespects and to buy the priceless weapon from Bud. And if you think that’s how the movie ends, you need to see more movies.
As for Bill, he’s living the life of a wealthy urban father, only the tastefully decorative sword cases around the sofa hinting at his true nature.
The China Syndrome
Where Vol. 1 had a Japanese flavor, Vol. 2 features more Chinese-style martial arts, including an encounter with Pai Mei, played by Gordon Liu (who replaced Tarantino’s first choice for the role — himself). The Bride’s Hanzo sword still figures prominently, but it’s her Chinese martial arts skills — not her Japanese steel — that wins the day.
One of the more showy sections of the film is the flashback to her training at the feet of Pai Mei. Bill delivers her personally to the temple where she will spend the next several years learning to punch, kick, jump, fly, and maybe even the deadly “five point palm exploding heart technique.”
As before, Tarantino plays with time, flashing back to establish a character or a plot element. He includes much of the same music from Vol. 1., borrowing elements from Italian Westerns and integrating them seamlessly into his modern-day homage to Asian action cinema.
Dance the Tarantino
There is a crowd that worships Tarantino. I confess I am not among them, and I never have been. I sometimes feel like a heretic for merely liking Tarantino’s movies. He grew up with his own cult favorites and I grew up with mine, and they don’t really overlap.
However, for students of film who love Tarantino, there is a wealth of information about specific influences and homages. A good place to start is the press notes page of the official Kill Bill site.
On the DVD for Kill Bill Vol. 1, Tarantino compared himself to Steven Spielberg and George Lucas making Raiders of the Lost Ark — an homage to movie serials. But you don’t have to love every serial Spielberg loved to enjoy Raiders. Likewise, you can enjoy Kill Bill without saying “ah-hah” upon reading the name Pai Mei or Gordon Liu.
If the abundant violence weren’t part of Tarantino’s signature style, it would be gratuitous. But I think he is a great storyteller. I squirm in my seat at the gross parts and I sit on the edge of it when he shows me a well-choreographed swordfight, and I hope that’s enough.