Kill Bill, Vol. 2 written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, produced by Tarantino and Lawrence Bender, with Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah and Gordon Liu. 136 minutes. A Band Apart/Miramax production, an Alliance Atlantis release. Opens Friday (April 16). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
The arrival of Kill Bill, Vol. 2 creates one of those “who’s lying?” situations.
First, Quentin Tarantino announces that Kill Bill will be a three-hour movie. Then Harvey Weinstein, having had such luck twisting Martin Scorsese’s arm to shorten Gangs Of New York, decides Kill Bill is too long and wants it cut in two, which Tarantino agrees to do.
However, if we eliminate the double credits and the recapped material from Vol. 1 at the start of Vol. 2, the two films run three and a half hours. So was Kill Bill originally 210 minutes long or did Tarantino, once he knew he was making two movies, expand the project?
I suppose we’ll find out in the third or fourth DVD issue down the road. Miramax has hinted strongly that the original cut will come out on DVD, and that’s the one I really want to see.
In the monumental House Of Blue Leaves sequence that forms the climactic half-hour or so of Vol. 1, Tarantino gave us the biggest action sequence in the whole work, so don’t expect more of the same in 2.
If Vol. 1 was the Hong Kong half of the equation, Vol. 2 is the spaghetti western half. I say that, despite the great sword fight between Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah as, respectively, the revenge-driven Bride and Elle Driver, and the flashback martial arts training sequence with Gordon Liu, who returns as a different character than the one he played in 1.
Vol. 2 is comparatively meditative. It spends a lot of time roaming around the blank expanses of the Southwestern desert as the Bride stalks Bill and disposes of various henchmen along the way.
Characters talk a lot, and rather slowly, to the detriment of Michael Madsen’s performance as Bud, who seems dull rather than thoughtful.
One Madsen moment, by the way, includes the most obscure reference in all of Tarantino. The scene where Bud’s boss tells him not to come to work at the strip club where he’s a bouncer is lifted straight out of Hannah’s Strip Notes, the documentary she made while acting in Dancing At The Blue Iguana.
Tarantino has fallen in love with David Carradine’s face and character, and Bill thus gets some long, slowly delivered speeches. Carradine is terrific. It’s always a surprise, given the vast quantities of unwatchable junk he’s appeared in, to remember that when he’s given a good role and he’s sober Carradine’s a hell of an actor. But can we pick up the pace just a little?
Kill Bill as two films is fun, though Vol. 2 is overlong and indulges its actors. Kill Bill as one film, with two tonalities jostling for space, seems potentially more interesting.
This is the wonderful world DVD has brought us: variorum editions, unrated editions, directors’ cuts, directors’ recuts and, of course, international editions. I may order the Japanese DVD of Vol. 1, which has the whole House Of Blue Leaves sequence in colour. Tarantino did the North American version partially in black-and-white to dodge the NC-17 rating for violence. There’s a bunch of black-and-white in Vol. 2, including the opening 12 minutes, but that’s more for fun. At some point, Tarantino’ll have to do a commentary.