I had pretty much given up on reviewing movies any more. I get more complaints on the reviews than any other genre, and I found out that many people don’t even read them. My own brother Achmed doesn’t read them; you can’t get worse than that.
But then the previews for Kill Bill Volume 2 came out, and I started to get excited. I still wasn’t sure I would review the new one, until we watched Volume 1 this week and I went home to read my original review. At the time, I praised the film, but not as much has I should have (although I did write then I wished I could have seen it twice before posting a review). Watching KBV2 (which looks a bit like the abbreviation for the King James Version of the Bible, but isn’t) this week on DVD, I fell in love with it. Before I criticized the first film for not containing Tarantino’s trademark dialogue. This time I just appreciated it for what it was: a show-stopping jaw-dropping tribute to kung-fu theatre and the pure joy Tarantino has in making movies.
So, I decided I needed to review Volume 2 to pay the debt of my less-than-glowing take on Volume 1. But first I had to watch it, which proved difficult. There were “funding” issues, and once those got solved, we had several people meeting together (12 in all), many of whom only knew me. Have you ever been in that situation, where you’re the lynch-pin between different groups of people? It can be nerve-racking.
Several of us met for a pre-movie snack, and things went well, with everyone getting along, so confidence was indeed high. We ordered an appetizer of garlic cheese-bread, which was served in triangles; point outward, so that it looked like a deep-fried cheesy starfish. Inspiration hit me, and imagined an angry starfish (for being deep-fried), clenching each of its arms into tiny fists, and shaking them, saying in a Mr. Burns voice, “You’ve made a powerful anemone, my friend.”
So that went well. We were walking to the theatre, and went by this restaurant with the hottest hostess I have ever seen. I mean the girl was a goddess. All the guys started talking about her, and how out of our league she was. Maybe it was the fact that everyone was getting along, or just the excitement of the movie, but even though I was by far the ugliest guy among us, I turned back and went to talk to her. I felt like I could do anything. Maybe she felt sorry for me, or maybe she was amazed that someone so far beneath her level would even approach, but she’s reading this now. (Score one for Hyperion.)
Okay, we get there, and I sent Aslan and Eisley in to save seats, while I waited for the others. (I found out later they had to use martial arts skills to keep the 12 seats available. Way to go, guys.) While I was waiting for Castro and his crew (the man is pathologically late), I saw this girl sitting on a guitar. I thought, why not go two-for-two? I went over and started talking to her. Her name was Raven and besides playing guitar she liked to draw and write fantasy fiction. So far so good. Then she mentioned how hard it was to live on her own at 17. That was my exit line. I’m sure she was a great girl, but inadvertently hitting on 17 year olds is not the way to go. I still had the email address of the goddess, and you can’t get too greedy. Luckily, Castro arrived, and we all filed in to the packed theatre.
As I’m sitting here in Denny’s, writing this, I pause to ask my three compatriots what they think. Aslan and Azrael are demure, not wanting to say anything. Castro starts in about how he didn’t like the beginning, because there was too much from part 1, and this opens the floodgates, as everyone starts criticizing Castro and calling him a pussy. (Actually, they said, “I disagree,” but sometimes the dialogue needs to be punched up a bit.) That was pretty much the only worthwhile comment they had, so rest is up to me.
You might have heard that Kill Bill Volume 2 can stand alone. It can. If the stylized violence of Volume 1 was too much for you, you should still see Volume 2. You’ll lose a little bit of character development, but not that much, and this movie more than makes up for it.
I find this film virtually flawless. The story is much more fleshed out than in Volume 1, which eschewed story for pure action. Now we get the full picture. The cinematography is truly breathtaking. All the camera work, from the angles, to the black-and-white, to the decision to turn the camera off at times is perfect. The music…Tarantino is the best at using music since—don’t laugh; this is serious—John Hughes. Back in the ‘80s, Hughes made films like Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where the music was an essential part of the experience. We’ve gone away from that lately. Most songs are now tacked onto the credits, or just a snippet is put in so they can include it on the soundtrack. Quentin Tarantino does away with all that. His music is not a compliment or a supplement but like Jerry McGuire is a completion to what’s happening on screen.
The dialogue missing in Volume 1 is back in full force. There are so many quotable lines; I can’t wait to see it enough times that I know them by heart. I reveled in the dialogue. If you’ve never seen a Tarantino film, I don’t know how else to describe it.
Best of all, for me, were the characters. Uma Thurman’s Bride, of course, is the heart and soul of both movies, and I predict history is going to make her a legend for these two films alone. But even the characters only on screen for a couple of minutes were revelations to me. I wanted to watch an entire movie about each one. There was the obvious—a Yoda-like martial arts master—who was priceless, but there was an old slow-talking Mexican who ran a brothel and a mafia gang (from the illegitimate sons of his hookers). And on and on. Tarantino obviously loves each and every one of his characters, no matter how bad they are or how briefly they appear on film.
And then there was Bill.
This is the kind of star-making or star-returning performance that John Travolta and Samuel Jackson had in Pulp Fiction. There’s an Academy Award here, please. How can someone be so snake-like and venal and yet so charming and likable? It’s a conjurer’s trick.
This film is different in almost every conceivable way from Volume 1. And, much as I appreciate the first, this one is miles better. Unlike the first, there are only a couple of fights here, but in many ways it’s more suspenseful. What your mind can imagine is often worse than anything you see on screen. The drama is at times very emotional, as you come to see that while part 1 truly is a revenge picture, part 2 is really a love story. A sick twisted love story where bad people do horrible things when thwarted, but a love story nonetheless.
I can’t recommend this film enough. I feel changed having seen it, and that’s all you can ask for in great art.
Suspension of Disbelief Scale: (out of 10): 8.5. While this is more realistic than part 1, most of this is still in the realm of fantasy.
Genre Grade: Whether it’s Tarantino or just epic-revenge-love—story, A+
Pantheon Percentile: I held off last time grading this film in the pantheon of all films ever made. I now feel confident giving this a 98.5. Well done.