Coming into Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill: Volume 2”, the question at hand was: “Did splitting what was essentially a single story into two for the sake of cold hard cash detrimental to the overall story”? According to most viewers and critics, the answer is No.
I must humbly disagree.
As an entirely separate being, “Volume 1” worked because it had a self-contained story that, although it didn’t end, there was enough of a beginning, middle, and a semi-ending to satisfy the undemanding viewer. (And of course everyone knew it wasn’t going to end going in, so the fact that it didn’t end was no shock to the system.) Also, the entire bloodbath in-between the beginning and non-ending was more than enough to get any action junkie’s engines revving. “Volume 2”, on the other hand, is meandering and unsatisfying.
Having sliced and diced her way through two of her former colleagues in “Volume 1”, the Bride (Uma Thurman) now goes after the rest before she can finally kill the titular Bill (David Carradine). Alas, the Bride finds killing retired assassin Budd (Michael Madsen) a tad difficult, and ends up buried alive in a coffin for her troubles. This segues into a flashback sequence where the Bride remembers her tutelage under Chinese kung fu master Pai Mei (Gordon Liu, playing a second character after getting chopped to pieces in “Volume 1”).
This side story with Liu is probably the film’s best 20 minutes. We see the Bride as a younger version and still in love with life and Bill. As Bill takes his leave, he warns her not to be so “American” in front of Pai Mei, lest she risks a severe punishment. And it’s good advice, too, as we later find out what happened to Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) and that missing eye of hers. The other good parts of “Volume 2” all involves Uma Thurman, who, while still not fully convincing as an action star, is nevertheless captivating as a woman determined to get bloody satisfaction. Even as she slashes and punches her way through the film, Thurman’s Bride still shows very real vulnerabilities.
It’s easy to see where a leaner and meaner “Volume 2” was supposed to fit into Tarantino’s original 3-hour film. Simply put, there is absolutely no reason why “Volume 2” should run two hours. At the most, it’s an hour film stretched beyond credulity. Instead of a tight and focused 3-hour movie, Tarantino, through what can only be called an Extreme Case of Narcissism, has allowed his film to become a bloated two-parter.
Finally, with Elle Driver and Budd dispatched, the Bride finally confronts Bill. Alas, this is where Tarantino decides to indulge us in a long, long, oh dear God it’s so long, series of monologues and how, ultimately, Bill is just a big softy despite his mass murdering tendencies. To say that Tarantino’s script is even more random than usual is an understatement. Having executed an almost perfect hyper kinetic bloodbath with “Volume 1”, “Volume 2” seems to indicate that Tarantino has run dry of ideas. That is, unless you just loved those Tarantino-esque scenes that go on endlessly where characters jabber about idiotic nonsense, in which case you’ll probably orgasm at the end of this 2-hour talkfest.
I don’t want to give the impression that “Volume 2” is not a good movie. It’s certainly entertaining when it just shuts up and gets on with the business at hand. Are the rumors that Tarantino went back to the cutting room floor and reattached some extraneous bits to pad out the running time of “Volume 2” true? Most definitely. You can bet the house on it, in fact. At least 40 minutes, perhaps more, of “Volume 2” exists for the sake of existing.
Of course “Volume 2” is not a total loser. Even when he’s redundant and out of ideas, Tarantino is still more entertaining than most Hollywood productions. The side story with the Bride and Pai Mei is the most entertaining sequence of the bunch; it’s especially enjoyable to see Gordon Liu made up to look like one of those Evil Shaolin Kung Fu Masters that Tarantino probably overdosed on as a kid on Saturday mornings. That, and the Bride’s hellish catfight with Elle Driver in a trailer, makes “Volume 2” at least worthwhile.
In the long and short of it, if you want an action film, stick to “Volume 1”; but if you want the irreverent and endless chatter that Tarantino is most famous for, you’ll love “Volume 2”.
Quentin Tarantino (director) / Quentin Tarantino (screenplay)
CAST: Uma Thurman….The Bride
Daryl Hannah….Elle Driver
Gordon Liu….Pai Mei