Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)

Kill-Bill-volume-2-DVD-coverBeware this review contains spoilers!

“That woman deserves her revenge, and we deserve to die”

Every beginning has an end. The Bride still has two names on her death-list, Budd and Elle Driver, before moving towards her ultimate goal: Kill Bill! Are you ready for the second volume of Tarantino’s exciting saga?

Kill Bill vol. 2 is exaggerated, over the top, wordy but never boring. This second shocker volume, is a gruesomely violent, deliriously brilliant, western-adventure with a drop of Shaolin philosophy which sees Uma Thurman gain the crown of warrior queen, kung-fu-mommy and the title of the first powerful woman of Shaolin Temple!

CAST

Uma Thurman is back to assume the role of Queen of the Shaolin Temple, a furious blond angel and flawless mom sets off to finish her business for good. O-Ren Ishii aka “Cottonmouth” is played by Lucy Liu. Vernita Green aka “Copperhead” personated by Vivica A. Fox. Budd aka “Sidewinder” is portrayed by Michael Madsen. This mysterious character is introduced as Bill’s degenerated younger brother and he’s the only other man in the death squad. After the assassination team division, he retires living in a mobile home where he becomes an alcoholic, working as a bouncer in a strip club. He is perfectly aware that he’s a walking dead one already. Elle Driver aka “Californian Mountain Snake”. unlike the other members of the team, apparently still works for Bill and they are having a relationship now. Elle Driver and the Bride are old enemies. Elle has always been jealous about the Bride because she was Bill’s old date and former lover. This sadistic, cruel and aggressive character is played by Daryl Hannah. Bill aka “Snake Charmer” is the leader of the deathly squad assassination and the main antagonist of the film. His character names the movie and he is played by David Carradine. Bill was trained by the legendary sword-smith Hattori Hanzô played by kung-fu movie legend actor Sonny Chiba and the kung-fu master Pai Mai personifies care of Gordon Liu (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin) a Chinese martial arts film actor. Bill looks as if he’s the alter-ego of Tarantino himself…

PLOT

Sometimes revenge is a memory worth fighting for.

After “Kill Bill vol. 1” in last scene where we learned that the Bride was also pregnant and, after all, her daughter still alive, we are ready to taste the epic finale with an well-anticipated endorphin rush to the brain.

“I’m a dead-listed woman in the world but right now, I’m just scared shitless about my baby!”

As we know, The bride (whose real name is now revealed to be Beatrix Kiddo) dispatched several of her arch-enemies. Now she continues with her grudge and fury to finish the business with the other formers of DIVAS and mostly Bill. It’s time now to face off with allies-turned enemies, Budd and Elle. Kill Bill volume 2 takes its starting point from the sixth chapter with the same frame of the first one: the blood-splattered bride laying on the floor and her killer Bill (out of context) holding her under fire. Then it’s Uma Thurman herself (in a totally different scene) to summarizing the developments since that point. She addresses directly to the viewers in a beautiful close-up alternated with a black and white colour scene. She flashes back to the day of her deadly wedding and we get to know how she joined the DIVAS, her training with an unforgiving Shaolin master Pai Mai who has a taste of cruel action and a super-secret technique to kill any opponent: the legendary “Five point palm exploding heart”. We also learn more about Beatrix’s past and her sick relationship with Bill. The breathless finale is nigh and Bill is closer than ever…

ACTION

After the exciting, though gratuitously-bloody-action scenes of the first volume, what should we expect from this second epic and final installment?

The most elaborate action scenes are focussed here on the last two enemies, Budd and Elle and the breathless Bride’s training carried through by Pai Mai.

First off we see Beatrix in a hybrid samurai-ninja-outfit about to attack Budd in his desert caravan. Beatrix breaks the door down with a kick but all she finds is Budd’s salt-shotgun right on her chest that throws her on the floor in one of the most explosive-scenes of the film. Budd steals her new Hattori Hanzo Katana and buries her in a claustrophobic coffin with the purpose of selling the sword to Elle Driver.

We can only ask now, how our blonde, avenger-angel can get out of this suspense laden, critical situation? That happens to be easy thanks to Tarantino’s brilliant mind! Beatrix breaks the coffin’s wood remembering, through a flashback, the dehumanizing training with Master Pai Mai where she learned how to break bricks with her bare hands. Here the movie comes back to the martial-education philosophy where she implores him to accept her as a pupil. For him, Beatrix is just a common American who as an amateur engages in the noble Eastern philosophies including martial arts. This is the reason why he first tests her preparation asking her whether she knows Mandarin or Cantonese to forge her lineage. It’s a sort of oral test preceding the physical one. Then Pai Mai invites her to start a fight. We witness here the beauty and the elegance of the two most choreographic kung-fu styles: Beatrix’s Tiger-Crane against Pai Mai’s Eagle’s Claw upon the red background. Simply magnificent! Very impressive and elastic movements are shown by veteran fu adept Gordon Liu. The other realistic and painful part of the training (fundamental to “Beatrix’s escape” from the coffin) is where she has to break the wooden boards with her bare fists surrounded by the rhythm of Pai Mai’s knocking. The apex of this realistic and harsh training culminates one night during Beatrix’s sleep when, due to the excess of adrenaline in her blood, she tries to hit the wall in a sort of nocturnal spasm. How many of us martial artists have experienced this sensation I wonder?!

The dinner scene is precision calculated: we see an exhausted Beatrix trying to eat a little portion of rice with the Japanese chopsticks and Pai Mai mocks because she can’t pick-up the rice, this gives rise to an exhilarating “kung-food” scene, so, remember to mind the gap between Eastern and Western cultures!

At the end of the training, Beatrix is able to break the wooden boards with her bare hands, the Bride eventually breaks the coffin with the same technique learned from Pai Mai and she rises from the ground with a metaphoric rebirth: a new stronger warrior is reborn. That same moment, the flashback ends as we get back to our story.

While she is rising from “six feet under” Budd and Elle resume their business and by a cruel trick Elle kills her ex-colleague with a powerful Black Mamba venomous bite hidden under the suitcase full of bucks in exchange for Beatrix’s katana. Alas! She hardly savours the moment when Beatrix enters almost flying from the door with a double kick that throws Elle against the wall. Elle is totally surprised and tries to unleash Beatrix’s sword but our Bride with very impressive, rapid moves prevents her and punches her in the face. Very soon some full-on and delightful, never-seen-before fight sequences are upon us, with all of kinds of objects turned into weapons. This is a knockout scene in which Beatrix does anything to survive, fighting with everything at hand, lamps, guitar and even with a TV-antenna that, due to Uma’s ability and preparation, seems to suggest a fencing-fight, and managing to defend herself using a chair as a shield. In combination with the breathless double-blonde-chicks’ kick that ends with the two warriors on the floor, Beatrix throwing her enemy on the wall again and both duelling with bladed weapons, we’re transported into another adrenalin overdose of a scene!

After they started to push their swords against each other, Beatrix realizes that a simple death is a rare gift for someone like Elle and commits a pretty drastic act…(watch it and see!). Bill is now close. When she finally meets him she discovers that her 4-year old daughter is still alive, but this does not stop Beatrix. After a wordy conversation they start a surreal fight, sitting on the chair at the table like a family…with a sword. The only possibility for Beatrix here is Pai Mai’s secret technique of “five point palm exploding heart”, how do you think she’ll fare…?

SUMMARY

It’s certainly less bloody, cartoony and furious then the first but definitely more shameless, more philosophical and auteur-style film. For this Vol.2 The Bride completely abandons Bruce-Lee’s yellow-and-black outfit and opts for the more “civil” Sergio Leone garb.

Towards the end of the 90s, action movies based their plots on the clichés such as prison, police, army, giving space, which gave way to the growth of such characteristics of toughness, strength, control, courage and independence -all adjectives with a masculine connotation. The female characters were marginalized in secondary roles such as victims or hostages. Something changed in movies like Terminator, Aliens, G.I. Jane, where there begins to appear some female heroine shamelessly represented as a male: rude, tough, violent, with a shaped body and enslaved by masculine strength, a dual submission physical and moral as well. Here Tarantino’s idea breaks the stereotypes of women in Hollywood history. The Bride is the first feminist “heroine” without losing her femininity. She physically embodies all that is often the subject of criticism from feminist pride: A good looking blonde, white girl with a trained body that clearly conforms to traditional patriarchal conventions. Uma Thurman can be strong without having her body visually sculpted by overtly masculine lines. She is just a woman whose strength is built on the sheer will of vengeance towards the people who hurt her. In this masterpiece of action, Quentin starts this sort of “revenge of the blondes”. By the end of the film the woman prevails finally over the man with a metaphoric victory. Might we say Beatrix Kiddo symbolized the emancipation of women in Hollywood history?

TRIVIA

  • The idea that Bill had wounds around his eye after his meeting with Pai Mei, was suggested by David Carradine. According to the actor, those scratches are similar to those inflicted by an eagle’s claw that would have been caused by Pai Mei in an attempt to remove Bill’s eye during the fight.
  • In the original script, the story of Pai Mei, was narrated by Bill aboard his jeep along the road of the temple. The film is narrated, however, in front of a fire in the middle of the night in the Chinese countryside before the arrival of Bill and Bea to Pai Mei’s temple. With the help of a flute, Bill tells the story as if it were a fairy tale.
  • At the premiere of the film in Austin, Texas, the film ended with a standing ovation lasting 5 minutes.
  • The character of Pai Mei is based on the martial artist, Qingfu Pan, also known as “Grandmaster Pan”. The name of Pai Mei means “White Eyebrow”. In the original script, Pai Mei was a master of the “10-point palm, exploding heart technique”.
  • The long wooden flute played by Bill is exactly the same flute that the actor played in the TV series Kung Fu (1972) in the role of Chang Caine. Carradine brought the flute on the set and Tarantino included it in the film.
  • Samuel L. Jackson appeared for a brief cameo in the role of Rufus.

FILM RATING: 8.5/10

Trailer


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Paolo Loseto is an Italian martial arts addict. Paul discovered the martial art world young through inspiration from legends like Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme. This influence soon flourished into a lifelong passion leading to the practice of full contact karate, kickboxing and taekwondo. Paul lives in London, has graduated in Media Culture and Communication Studies and continues developing his interest in film. He’s ambitious to write a screenplays for action movies.

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