Kill Bill Volume 2 is the second part of Quentin Tarantino’s female led revenge thriller and was released six months after its predecessor KillBill Volume 1. The film follows the continuing vengeful rampage of The Bride (Uma Thurman) who we discover in this film is actually named Beatrix Kiddo. Her name remained secret in the first movie. Having dispatched of two of her former assailants in the first film, Kiddo here hunts down the remaining three; trailer residing, titty bar bouncer Bud (Michael Madsen), one eyed jealous blonde Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) and the eponymous Bill (David Carradine).
The film opens with a Hitchcockian style pre title sequence in which The Bride is driving to her final destination while giving a brief outline of the plot so far. This sequence is shot in black and white and uses rear projection to give it the look of a Hitchcock thriller. Even the title font and score are Hitchcockian. The remainder of the film is much more conventional and more settled than the first Kill Bill movie as Tarantino keeps his genre mashing directorial tricks mostly in his pocket. There are occasional switches to black and white and one chapter resembles a Hong Kong Kung Fu movie but for the most part the film is more unadventurous than the first movie. There is much less violence too with only two onscreen deaths in the entire movie.
I saw Kill Bill Vol 1 again a few days ago but it has been a while since I’ve seen Vol 2. Before watching the films again, a lot of the action had mixed together in my head and I couldn’t be sure what was found in which film. As it turns out, a lot of my favourite images and scenes are in the first movie and I prefer it over the second. Even so this is still a fine film and delivers a satisfying conclusion to the saga. Following all of the crazy fighting and distinct visuals of the first film, the second is more of a straight forward thriller. The timeline is also more linear although it does pop back and forth every now and then. It would have probably been impossible to match the carnage and bloodshed of the Crazy 88s fight from Kill Bill 1 so Tarantino instead opts to scale the brutality back but there is still a lot of violence.
One of the standout scenes is the burial. I can still remember seeing this for the first time in a dark cinema and I found it terrifying. The Bride is buried alive in a coffin by one of her foes and we the audience witness this horrific event in real time side by side with the woman. Darkness slowly descends on the screen as the nails are hammered home and soon the screen in pitch black. With your eyes finding nothing to focus on, your other senses are working overtime and what Tarantino does is to rack up the volume as the coffin is lowered into the ground with us inside. All is quiet for a few seconds before shovelfuls of soil are layered on top of us, each pile louder and scarier than the last. It’s a terrific scene and in my opinion, Tarantino’s scariest to date. Tarantino creates a sense of claustrophobia before the burial even takes place by reducing the screen’s aspect ratio from 2.35:1 to 1.33:1 which creates a hemmed in feel before we’re even inside the coffin. It really is a masterful scene.
With seemingly no way out of the coffin the plot switches to many years before when Bill persuades an old Kung Fu master named Pai Mei (Gordon Liu) to take Kiddo under his tutelage. Pai Mei provides a lot of the comic relief that Sonny Chiba’s Hattori Hanzo gave in the first film and his scenes are great fun. The character is excellent but terrifying. Following an overview of what he teaches Kiddo the action heads back to the buried coffin. There is another great scene between Daryl Hannah and Michael Madsen in Bud’s trailer which is thoroughly Tarantino and the final showdown is also worth the wait.
Unusually for a Quentin Tarantino movie the soundtrack isn’t particularly memorable. Like the rest of the movie it is more conventional than the first and the score matches the location and genre of each scene rather than mashing it with something else. Like the first film the music is produced by RZA of The Wu-Tang Clan with some help from Director and frequent Tarantino collaborator Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez’s band Chingon performs the closing song Malagueña Salerosa. Uma Thurman is great once again and David Carradine is also really good. Despite his long career I’ve only ever seen him in this and Scorsese’s early exploitation Boxcar Bertha before. I’ll have to see more of his stuff. Gordon Liu is excellent and like Michael Parks plays a different character in each of the two movies. Parks incidentally is fantastic as Esteban Vihaio, a character who feels like an early version of Christoph Waltz’s Hans Lander/King Schultz in his quiet, well spoken but deadly manner. Overall Kill Bill Volume 2 is less action packed and slower in pace than Volume 1 and feels like an older brother taking over from the rambunctious child of the first movie. It brings the story together well and is very good but unlike the first movie it is one of my least favourite Tarantino films.
- Robert Rodriguez helped score the movie for a fee of $1. Tarantino later repaid the favour by Direction a sequence in Sin City for the same fee.
- Tarantino does not consider this to be his fifth film and instead claims Death Proof is his fifth.
- The Pussy Wagon is not in the film due to a segment in which The Bride fight's GoGo's sister in which the car is destroyed. The fight didn't make the final cut. A scene with Michael Jai White also failed to make the cut.