Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
I think I’m seeing this soon. I hope I’m seeing this soon. After reading this exceptionally well-written review for VOL. 2, I can’t wait another goddamn minute. Let me just throw this last story up, and then it’s off to the airport for a trip that just might distract me from how freakin’ great this movie sounds...
Konnichi wa, Harry-san! I bring you an early review of KILL BILL vol. 2...post if you like.
Ok, it's late and I'm tired, so I'll skimp on the fancy talk and lay it out straight. This is not a perfect movie - at least, not the first time around - though Tarantino fans (and movie geeks) will definitely get their kicks.
Bad news first: It's long. 9 reels long, in fact. I remember seeing some little blurb from QT about how a 3-hour exploitation flick smacks of pretension, but two 90-minute exploitation flicks smacked of ambition. So help me do the math here - what does one 111-minute movie + one 130-ish-minute movie smack of? Whatever it is, it's more than three hours.
So what, right? It's just more movie to love, right? Well... the problem is it FEELS long. The first volume had a great pace - it was a lean, mean, fighting machine. This one, though, feels bloated. Self-indulgent. At times, it even starts to take itself a little too seriously. And this hurts the film. Though I'm sure multiple viewings (and what Tarantino film doesn't get better every time you see it?) will somehow make all those extra minutes more endearing, at first glance at 2 in the morning... it drags.
Ok, that's about it for the bad news. Here's the rest.
The action scenes, though few and far between, kick ass. The flashback to the Bride's training with Pai Mei (Gordon Liu again...in disguise!) is one of the best training sequences ever, right up there with SNAKE IN EAGLE'S SHADOW. Everything's just right, from the student's cocky cleverness to the master's humbling display of whup-ass to the grit and determination in the Bride's eyes. There's an excruciating scene (one of many lengthy, excruciating sequences in the film; see above note about self-indulgence) where she has to use chopsticks to eat but cannot force her bruised, cramped fingers to hold them... Cool stuff. And Liu is FANTASTIC - probably the only guy who could possibly make Sonny Chiba's Hattori Hanzo look like a pussy. Kung-fu fans will giggle everytime he strokes his beard and glares. Then there's the killin'... There's an early face-off with Budd that's just plain nasty, a lengthy, claustrophobia-inducing live burial sequence (serious claustrophobes may need to take a breather - for real), and then the fight with Elle Driver... which is so kick ass it'll take your breath away. Possibly the film's greatest scene. So much wit, emotion, and raw, visceral adrenalin-pumping glee went into this scene it's almost too much. And of course, there's still Bill to contend with... The violence, though not as fountain-spurtingly extreme or prevalent as in vol. 1, is still pretty heavy. Tarantino's camera has a Fulci-esque fetish for eyes, and gorehounds will certainly read this as a sign of things to come... and in a few cases, they'll be right (it's no accident that Fulci gets a shout out in the credits).
Anyway, all this leads up to - du-du-duh! - the final confrontation with Bill. But before we get to Bill (and during, and after) there's a lot of talk. A LOT of talk. Seriously, I love Tarantino's dialogue as much as the next guy, but enough is enough. Thank Eris he's got a great bunch of actors to get us through. We finally see some of Bill and the Bride's history, and eventually learn more about her daughter, and of course the aforementioned Pai Mei flashback; we also learn more about the relationships between the characters (including how Driver lost her eye). There's a deliriously enjoyable (but narratively unneccessary) scene with Michael Parks as a suavely dangerous Mexican pimp. Bill has some great scenes, though his Pai Mei story goes on a little too long. His Superman monologue is fantastic, though. There's a lot of stuff with Budd that seems (unfortunately) cut around Michael Madsen's slow, rambling delivery. If you're cool with Mr. Blonde, then sit back and enjoy. If not, you're in for a rough time. I said it before and I'll say it again - the key word here is self-indulgence. QT clearly loves his actors, loves his characters, and can't bear to part with anything he deems precious, whether it benefit the film or not. A lot of these talky scenes could have been trimmed down, and some could have been tossed entirely. But they do make the action that much sweeter.
Oh, and speaking of self-indulgence, nearly all of the final reel is credits. There are essentially three credit sequences, and while it would have been criminal not to have credited all these fine people, once is enough. It feels like 2 music videos that have been tacked on before the final crawl.
If I sound like I'm being too harsh, it's because it's late and I'm cranky. Really, if you have a little patience, the rewards will be pretty sweet. The actors save really save the day. Carradine plays his entrance scene like he's the ghost of Johnny Cash, and the harsh, high contrast black and white (complete with classic John Ford doorway shots) of his openening scene gives it all an ethereal, almost ghastly, glow. We've had a whole movie of just talking his character up, and I have to say, he doesn't disappoint. He's suave, smooth, tacky, and utterly, completely dangerous. Just watch the way he handles the toy gun toward the end. It's just a toy, but in his hands... you know he knows how to use the real thing. It's eerie.
The real winner here is Uma Thurman. It's a bit early to be saying this, but there could (and perhaps should) be an Oscar nod for her this time. We see a lot more of her this time... with Bill, with her would-be husband, with her daughter...and at different ages. Her character is considerably younger when she trains with Pai Mei, and you see it - Uma looks like a college girl. And acts like it - so naturally it's not even acting. We see so many sides to her this time: killer, mother, victim, lover, student, etc. And Uma is every one of them. And it's a huge credit to everyone - Tarantino, the DP, the editor, and of course Uma - that she gets sexier and sexier as the movie plays out. Even when she's covered in dirt and mud and blood and freshly risen from the grave you want to lick her clean and fuck her. I don't think I've ever seen a performer who's so completely ALIVE in every way, and she was a marvel to watch.
So, Uma fans, dig in. Kung-fu fans, you might considering waiting for DVD so you can fast forward. But really, if you're a true cinema geek, this is a remarkable film, a great piece of compressed cinema history, and when Tarantino's on, he's motherfucking ON, and you'll feel the hairs on your arms stand up and KNOW that you are in the middle of glorious cinema. You might have to sit through some overly-long scenes to get to those yummy moments, but there are little treats to get you through (like Sid Haig, for no particular reason...like he needs a reason; or Rufus - "Rufus is the man!"). I seem to remember a funny rumor that Tarantino had grown so fond of these characters he was considering building a career-spanning franchise out of them... doing some other things, then dropping in on them in a decade or so... well, not to give too much away, he's certainly left himself open for that possibility, and you know, I think it would be kinda cool. I'm also really interested in seeing how vols 1 and 2 would cut together... I have a feeling that with a little rearrangement, the indulgences of part two could be smoothed out, and form one huge juicy dripping masterpiece of cult exploitation cinema... So let's hope that sometime down the road we'll get to see KILL BILL as it was originally intended... But for now, this'll do.
Ok, now it's definitely past my bedtime, so... adios.
No matter what gripes that guy had, he sounded like it was a great ride, and I can’t wait to take it.