Kill Bill Volume 2 is a great movie that is as much like Volume 1 as Aliens is like ET.
The first movie is a martial-arts flick or something. This film is a western. The first movie had little plot, a ton of fighting, and not much dialogue. This movie has one (and a half) fight scene, a ton of talking, and a lot of character development. Now, it could be argued that Quentin Tarantino made a mistake cutting this movie in half while saving all the plot for the second half and all the action for the first half. To which I would say–yes, yes, he did. Luckily, the one fight scene this movie does contain is so awesomely choreographed and badass that it might be enough to satisfy people who came to see the kick-ass action that characterized the first movie. Maybe.
I’m not saying the first movie was bad. It was a fun, mindless romp elevated slightly by its compelling visual style. The second move, however, is better than the first. Like, exponentially better.
For one thing, we finally get to learn a little more about both the Bride, who is the protagonist, and Bill, who both movies are named after but somehow managed not to show up in Kill Bill Volume 1. Now that we actually know who is supposed to get killed and why, the revenge story is a lot more compelling.
So, after killing two people in the last movie, the Bride decides to take down the remaining three, who are Bill, Bill’s brother Budd, and some evil woman with an eyepatch who is apparently the Bride’s nemesis and really hates her for some reason. Before the Bride shows up, though, we get to watch about fifteen minutes of Bill’s brother working as a bouncer in a strip-club. Though this sounds like boring filler, these scene are actually really great, due to the marvelous acting of Michael Marsden (who plays Budd), and serve to add depth to our villain in a much classier way than that anime sequence did for Lucy Liu in the first movie. Why is an ex-samurai assassin working for an abusive, trash-talking boss and living in a shabby trailer in the middle of a desert? Why does he not seem to care if the Bride kills him or not? Why is he angry at his brother, Bill? The answers are never explicitly told to us, per se, but filling in the blanks yourself is half the fun of watching this movie, honestly.
Anyway, the Bride shows up and promptly gets blasted an implausibly far distance through the air by Budd’s shotgun. This scene is bound to make you wonder why no one did the exact same thing in the last movie. Budd, displaying all the evilness and lack of foresight of a James Bond villain, decides to bury the Bride alive in a coffin so as to make her “suffer to her last breath.”
What follows is the second most epic scene ever. We get a scene inside the coffin with the Bride, in the dark, listening to her sobbing and the sound of dirt being shoveled onto the coffin’s lid. If you have claustrophobia, this scene will probably make you lose your mind. If you don’t have claustrophobia, this scene will change that.
This scene is then followed by some long talking and kung-fu training montage that no one really pays any attention to because we’re all wondering how the Bride is going to GET OUT OF THE ***ING COFFIN. And then finally, we get what is a strong contender for the most epic scene ever.
After that, it’s hard to imagine how the movie could get any better, but it somehow does. First, Budd and eyepatch woman have a great conversation that ends with Budd getting killed by a Black Mamba just because eyepatch woman wanted the glory/honor/satisfaction/whatever of killing the Bride herself. She then gets her chance as the Bride shows up and the awesome fight scene I mentioned earlier ensues.
Just as Kill Bill 1 is completely different from Kill BIll 2, so this fight scene is completely different from the hour-long fight scene in the first movie. It’s short, brutal, and ultimately more entertaining. This duel proves, once and for all, that when it comes to fight scenes, length isn’t everything.
If only someone had told George Lucas…
So, then it’s on to Kill Bill. The Bride arrives at Bill’s mansion, armed with a pistol (wait, what? I thought she had, like, a code of the samurai thing? Why else would she have been using only a sword for the entirety of two mov–ah, screw it. It’s just one scene.)
It turns out that SPOILERS her daughter is still alive. Not only that, she’s grown up to be a bland and vacuous bag of cuteness. Her sweet little voice and her shy little smile and her adorable little face will either let your heart or make you want to vomit. It turns out Bill is a bad daddy, since he keeps taking about goldfish flopping on the floor, which is a metaphor for the pointlessness of human existence, and since he lets her watch a movie called Shogun Assassin that is probably not appropriate for four-year-olds. Though to be fair, the Bride does’t seem to have a problem with this. The scene where she and the girl (given the painfully adorable name of BB) cuddle in bed while watching a violent samurai action movie is really awkward. Though maybe that’s the point. The movie is subtly showing us that the Bride, despite her desire to live a normal life and her life for her daughter, is actually not fit to be a mother. Which is kind of heart-breaking, if you think about it.
So, anyway, the kid falls asleep (thank God) and then the Bride and Bil talk for about half an hour. In real time.
There’s some bullshit involving a truth serum-ex-machina that is best forgotten, and then just when you’re wondering if a movie called Kill Bill is capable of being as slow and plodding as C-Span, we finally get some character development. And then we realize that what we thought all this time was a straight-forward action flick is actually something deeper. See, even though the Bride hates Bill and wants to kill him, she still sort of loves him. And he still sort of loves her and kind of wants to die. The “sort ofs” and “kind ofs” are what make this scene so great. The characters are so obviously conflicted and torn that it is hard not to be riveted. Well, at first it’s hard to be riveted. After the scene goes on for like 40 minutes, it becomes a little bit easier.
So then comes the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The battle of kings. The final duel. The confrontation. The battle to end all battles. Bill vs. the Bride, no holds barred, in a fight that is guaranteed to be so awesome that it–
Why are all these clips in Japanese?
Oh. It actually lasts less than a minute. In fact, neither of the two combatants ever actually bothers to so much as stand up. That’s right. The fianl duel is a fight between two people sitting in chairs at a table. It ends when the Bride catches Bill’s sword in her scabbard and disarms him. Some may argue that this is a Freudian metaphor, and that it symbolizes the way the Bride and Bill are so perfectly made for each other that Bill’s sword fits perfectly in Uma’s sheath (that sounded wrong, so maybe it is a sexual metaphor), and that it emphasizes the tragicness of the movie and the emptiness of revenge. Those people can go **** themselves. Because this fight scene ***ing sucks.
Anti-climax aside, though, Kill Bill is a great movie and should serve as a good lesson to Micahel Bay and other directors like him: action movies don’t have to be dumb to be entertaining.