Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

Director:  Quentin Tarantino
Cast:  Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah
Plot:  The murderous Bride continues her vengeance quest against her ex-boss, Bill, and his two remaining associates, his younger brother Budd, and Bill's latest flame Elle.

Genre:  Action / Crime / Thriller
Awards:  Nom. for 2 Golden Globes - Best Leading Actress, Best Supporting Actor.
Runtime:  136min
Rating:  M18 for violence, language and brief drug use.

“You're a natural born killer.”

As the immediate follow-up to the highly successful Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), Vol. 2 marks a distinct shift in visual style and tone to its prequel.  Gone are the stylized action violence and gratuitous gore that made the first film so fun to watch.  In place is a closer look at the nature of violence and vengeance.

If the first film was about The Bride (Uma Thurman) seeking her revenge, seemingly without any consequences, the sequel is less straightforward and deals with the psychology of the characters with far greater depth.  In this regard, Vol. 2 is more dramatic, slower-moving, but a more effective film that works as a brilliant companion piece to Vol. 1.

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 may feature an outstanding chapter shot in Cantonese as a homage to the Hong Kong martial arts 'master-disciple' training sequence, but its roots lie in the existential Western.  Cue Ennio Morricone's music, along with another outstanding collection of music tracks and songs that not only drives the tempo of the film, but adds a mythical quality to the tale.

Thurman's performance remains consistent, if not better, and she gets a one-on-one fight scene with one of her nemeses, which is as well choreographed and brutal as it gets.  The pacing in Vol. 2 is also more consistent, and despite a longer runtime and more dramatic material, the film is remarkably engaging.

In Vol. 1, Tarantino showed that he could do a stylish action film with Eastern influences.  In Vol. 2, he returns to being a filmmaker with a sharp cinematic eye.  Together with cinematographer Robert Richardson, Tarantino employs black-and-white photography, long tracking shots, wide landscape shots, and even shots in an enclosed space that probably inspired a similar visual grammar in films like Buried (2010).

The last act when The Bride finally has a showdown with Bill is positively anti-climatic.  Don't expect an epic battle between good and evil.  Instead, Tarantino delivers something more intimate - a meaning-making session and a short, effective fight that brings out the essence of the Kill Bill films, that patience is a virtue, and one must be ready for his or her destiny.

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 and Vol. 1 are both as different as yin and yang.  But when combined, they share the same artistic vision.  They represent Tarantino working at the height of his creative powers.  They also sit comfortably between the likes of Pulp Fiction (1994) and Inglourious Basterds (2009) as works of cinematic ingenuity, confidence, and liberty.

Verdict: With more dramatic substance than Vol. 1, Vol. 2 shows that Tarantino has an unparalleled gift for dialogue and a sharp cinematic eye. 

GRADE: A (9/10 or 4.5 stars)

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