Kill Bill-Vol 2

May, 2004, Thriller

Kill Bill, Vol. 2

The second half of director Quinten Tarantino's shaggy-dog tribute to B-grade action films has done so well in its first two weeks at the box-office that it may well mark this renegrade director's return to Hollywood's A-list. There's no denying it has some laudable things going for it, including

(1) 3-cushion bank shot dialogue- Is there a screenwriter working today in the hard-boiled genre who hasn't stolen from QT's patented formula, first demonstrated in Reservoir Dogs and perfected in Pulp Fiction? Hard cases talking just past each other, taking off on a point in one direction, then bouncing off an intruding idea or two, before caroming back in unexpected ways that finally makes the character's point-- verbal sparring as an example of Heidegger's dialectic.

(2) Darryl Hannah as bad ass- Who would have thought the lovely mermaid who got her start Splash and who has played more winsome, sweet wimps than anyone else in recent memory could don an eye-patch and instantly become Ms. California Mountain Snake, the bitch from celluloid hell? Wearing a sneer that's nearly as tight as her outfit and sporting an attitude as causally evil as it is condescending, she makes almost taking out heroine Uma Thurman more fun than it out to be, given that their hand to hand combat constitutes the goriest part of this vibrant lunacy.

(3) "Exploitation" actors really acting- Can Bo Svenson, (the facially-immobile hulk responsible for the second Walking Tall) really be playing a Texas preacher with such deadpan perfection? How about Michael Parks as Esteban Vihaio, an aging Mexican pimp, so perfectly delivering his conversational riffs they’re nearly over before you realize he's the same actor who played a cop in Kill Bill-Vol.1. Is Michael Madsen's lethargic Budd, even nastier than this wonderful actor's terrifying role in Reservoir Dogs? Tarantino's willingness to use old-time character actors has revitalized any number of careers, (especially the long-underrated Robert Forster in Jackie Brown) and provided definitive proof that cleverly written lines can enable actors to practice their craft with a skill audiences never previously appreciated.

(4) Repackaging cultural clichés- If film noir is legitimate chic, why not the cheesy aspects of B-grade drive-in movies that manage to stick in the public consciousness like gum on the bottom of your shoes? Tarantino may not be the wunderkind of contemporary cinema he and his fans think he is, but there's no denying that the manner in which he recycles conventions from Hollywood's contributions to pop culture are both fresh and frequently quite amusing. Seeing this movie is a bit like viewing an entire genre retrospective in a single sitting and it's hard to fault the director's sheer exuberance even as you recoil from his patently gory shenanigans

On the other hand……

That frenzied style can be awfully annoying if carried on too long:

(1) Drunk on Sergio Leone- Reverence for one's heroes can be overdone; witness the countless references to this master of the spaghetti western. From an annoyingly thunderous soundtrack to establishing shots without immediately recognizable context, Tarantino celebrates his Italian idol too much--and way too often.

(2) Lengthy Speeches-the director's skill at crafting serpentine dialogue, noted approvingly above, can get wearisome if carried to excess. He makes that mistake repeatedly here. The exchanges between Bill and The Bride in flashback and as prelude to their final confrontation, the strip club owner's diatribe, Bill's verbal excursions with his brother--all go on too long to hold the audience's interest, however verbally dexterous they may be.

(3) We've seen it done that way before- The greatest sin imaginable to Tarantino, so why does he allow it to happen? For a director who prides himself on delivering perfect head fakes, Tarantino's tip-offs often don't carry any surprise at all. It's not hard to guess what Daryl Hannah's packing in her suitcase or just what will pop up out of the dirt covering that freshly dug grave or just who's going to be the victim of the "5 finger exploding heart technique"; you can have fun with film conventions, and rework them in intriguing ways, but if you set out to do so, it helps if you actually deliver. The biggest surprise, (and greatest disappointment) in this half of "Kill Bill" is its predictability. 

In conclusion…

For what it was, "Kill Bill, Vol 1" was awfully good.

For what it is, "Kill Bill, Vol 2" is okay- 

Not awfully good, not even simply good, just okay. 

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