Kill Bill Volume 2 (2004)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 4/16/04
Written And Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Martial Arts Direction: Yuen Woo Ping
Cast: Uma Thurman, Gordon Liu (Liu Chia Hui), Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, David Carradine, cameo by Sid Haig

Picking up where volume 1 left off, Uma Thurman continues down the road to revenge, with Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, and David Carradine on her "to do" list. Light on action and heavy on exposition, the film seems more cohesive and less contrived than part 1, but it's still just as pretentious. If you enjoyed part 1, part 2 should not be overlooked. Likewise, if you didn't like part 1, there's no reason to bother with part 2. Uma Thurman once again gives an outstanding physical and emotional performance, which pretty much carries the entire film. Daryl Hannah is considerably less ridiculous in this outing, which makes her showdown with Thurman much more enjoyable. David Carradine finally shows up as the nefarious Bill, and gives a moving and sympathetic performance that wraps up all of the loose ends. And the girl who plays Thurman's daughter is unbelievably cute. Quentin Tarantino deserves high marks for getting such a wonderful performance out of her.

Unfortunately, Tarantino continues to be too clever for his own good, and the film suffers dearly for it. The best review I've read said "Mr. Tarantino has succeeded in making a film he could watch all day long. Too bad the rest of us can't." That pretty much sums up my thoughts perfectly. What Tarantino seems to lack is discipline and subtlety. It's amazing to me that a film can be so over-the-top and so boring and tedious at the same time. There may actually be a good film hiding in here if about two hours were cut out of parts 1 and 2 and the characters wouldn't talk so much. Tarantino's love for clever banter nearly bleeds the film dry of any enjoyment, and the characters just talk, and talk, and talk, and talk, and then talk some more. Okay, we get it. Move along, please. While the endless chatting may validate the characters as humans, it invalidates them as characters. I watch movies to see people do things. If I wanted to hear people talk, I'd listen to NPR (which I can assure you never happens).

For me, the highlight of the film was seeing Gordon Liu play the wise old kung fu master Pai Mei. Tarantino does an excellent job of recreating an old school kung fu training sequence, but then destroys it by running it through a crap filter. While I understand the dramatic and artistic intent, it infuriates me that the best part of the film ended up looking the worst. This kind of contempt and disrespect for the audience really left a bad taste in my mouth. Ultimately, I can appreciate and respect Quentin Tarantino as an artist, but not as an entertainer, and perhaps that's what frustrates me the most about "Kill Bill." There are numerous moments of true brilliance in the film, but they're always spoiled by something in the mix, which just leaves me feeling angry and disappointed.