KILL BILL: VOL. 2
Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino
“That’s assuming I even go see Vol. 2, which currently is doubtful.”
That sentence is how I ended my review of Kill Bill Vol. 1 which I found to be a frenetic bore. As Kill Bill Vol. 2 grew closer to being released, I decided that in all fairness I should bite the bullet and see it. I enjoyed three of Quentin’s other films, so the odds were in my favor. Even though it was the second chapter of a very bad film, KBV2 might very well be “like a stream of bat’s piss…shining like a shaft of gold when all around is dark,”* illuminating the nonsense from KBV1’s plot and structure, making me stand up from my seat and shout “Yes, Yes! Jesus H. Tap Dancing Christ, I have seen the light.”** See the footnotes? Notice when Quentin steals he never reveals his sources. My decision was also swayed by my ability to see movies for free at select theater chains across this great nation of ours, due in part to my comprehension of the basic principles of chemistry many years ago. Lastly, I might be needed, as I was last October, as a sane, unbiased voice against a rabid fanatical tide attempting to raise this film to undeserving, exalted heights. Sure, it might be fantastic compared to The Cat in the Hat or Gigli, but a film is supposed to be critiqued on its own merits, not on the dreck crammed into multiplexes.
Some critics write as if they are looking to be a part of the process, showing the world and future historians that they recognize genius in their time. Their reviews become contaminated by dreams of cigarettes and espressos at Cahiers du Cinema where the air is filled with discussions of artistic merit, pop culture sensibilities and newly formed categories created under the influence of pot and pretension in the hopes of scoring with Art History majors. Yet these poor mortals awaken with sweat and self-doubt oozing out their pores, wondering why their reviews don’t shape film criticism the way Pauline Kael’s did in the 1970s. The devastating results these critics unknowingly inflict upon the world of cinema parallel the damage done by Baylisascaris procyonis, a common parasite found in raccoons’ fecal matter.
As I watched KBV2, my biggest problem turned out to be that I had to deal with not one, mind you, but two assholes on their cell phones, and if you were at the 4/16/04 5:25 p.m. showing at the Edwards Metro Pointe in Costa Mesa, I might be talking about you. On my right, a moron felt his phone vibrate, pulled it out of his pocket and took a call. My wife exclaimed, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” while I yelled something I can no longer remember, lost forever to a psychological block or a hookah made from a 5-gallon Sparkletts bottle back in my late teens. We shamed this slug into the tunnel as he continued to take his call. Looking at this pathetic slob, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a doctor or in any way involved with national security. He returned to his seat, so the call obviously wasn’t important.
During the final chapter sequence, which elicited sighs of relief from people other than myself, a twenty-something kid took out his phone and returned a message, covering his mouth, to tell someone he would call them right back. I sat stunned, as this idiot couldn’t wait ten minutes to deliver that news. How does he not realize that voicemail works on the premise that someone who leaves a message enters into an implicit understanding that you will return their call? Therefore there’s no need to let them know you are going to return their call. You just return it.
The lack of respect for others is an epidemic that is growing worse the older I get. I was at a concert at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles where I saw bluegrass/jam band Yonder Mountain String Band for Fumo Verde’s birthday. They are made up of banjo, guitar, mandolin and bass and they put on a good show. About halfway during the band’s second set, standing right next to me, this short, heavyset gal babbles a drunken monologue into a very skinny blonde’s ear. I knew they were both drunk because when they walked by earlier the blonde told me what little breast she appeared to have was actually water in a bra. I’m straining to hear the band over the incessant noise. Other audience members are looking over at them, but their gaze of disgust has no effect because Gabby has her face pressed against Blondie’s head. I finally shout, “Do you mind?” They move out of earshot and I enjoy the rest of the song. Blondie leaves and Chatty Cathy walks over to me. She starts rubbing my back in an attempt to soothe me, which it doesn’t, and says, “I wish you had said something sooner before you got so upset. It’s no big deal. I’ve had a bunch of these [pointing to her drink]. I haven’t seen my friend in a long time. I’ve seen these guys [the band] billions of times.” She starts to repeat herself when I don’t respond. I had hoped that if I avoided eye contact, she would stop. Fumo tells her she should head to the “fuckin’ bar.” Voices in the crowd yell out, “Slice it,” and “He wasn’t the only one.” She continues to ramble on. Finally, I look in her unfocused eyes and say, “I’m not mad. You’ve apologized and I’ve accepted. There’s nothing more to say. You obviously have a problem because your friend has left and you haven’t stopped talking since. Give it a rest.” She meandered away from me. Someone under 21 tapped me on the shoulder and he thanked me for saying something.
I know what you’re thinking: Where’s he going? He’s all over the place? Let’s get to the reason we’re here. Those are all thoughts I had during KBV2. I looked at my watch about 40 minutes in and couldn’t believe what little had happened. The boredom continued throughout and I developed carpal tunnel from all the glances at my watch. I’m thinking of filing suit against Miramax and Disney to pay my medical bills.
This film is different from KBV1. It’s a Spaghetti Western instead of a Hong Kong martial arts film. Quentin shows his video library roots because he went to the trouble of making a bad Spaghetti Western filled with boring dialogue, no characterization and a complete lack of suspense. Maybe it wasn’t that different from KBV1.
Quentin is in love with his dialogue and he continues his Kill Bill tradition by having people talk without saying anything. The only scene that attempted to have meaning was Bill talking about Superman and Clark Kent, which made me wonder if everyone in the Tarantinoverse grew up a geek in the 1970s because everyone likes comics and films and music from that time period. While Bill’s monologue sounded interesting, his points were flawed and didn’t make any sense. He claims that Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne become superheroes when they put on their costumes while Superman’s costume is Clark Kent. In their respective comics those men are heroes whether they are wearing their costumes or not. Also, Bill talks about Superman making Clark weak and timid because that’s how Supes sees humans. This is also wrong. Supes gives Clark traits opposite from Superman so people won’t suspect that they are the same man just in case the glasses weren’t enough. Of course characters can be wrong in their thoughts but if there’s no opposing argument than what are we supposed to walk away with.
As far as the plot goes the film starts out at the church where the bride is wounded. We see Bill talking to [beep] during the wedding rehearsal. Yes, that annoying beep is back. Her real name is revealed and I’ll deal with that later. This opening scene droned on way too long. We know how it ends so why see the shoot-out take place?
Bud is now working at a strip club, cleaning toilets. He’s fallen pretty far from a high price assassin but seems okay with it. His fall from grace also affects his mind because he becomes “dumb bad guy.” Bud catches the Bride and could easily kill her, but he goes to the trouble of burying her alive and having to get rid of a coffin and skeleton. Will she make it out? Hmm, since Bill isn’t in the box, my money says ‘Yes.” The scene goes black as you hear tons of the heaviest dirt in the world falling into the grave and slamming into the coffin. I think it was supposed to be scary. Since it didn’t sound realistic, the scene was laughable.
Her time in the coffin is book-ended around the best sequence in the film where we see the Bride’s training from Pai Mei, a martial arts master. He is a very entertaining character with funny lines and is a great fighter. With a technique she learned for breaking through boards, she is able to bust through the coffin, and in a scene that came straight out of Baywatch, she climbs up the dirt as it flowed into the open spaces.
Bud is willing to sell Elle a Hanzo sword for a million bucks. She quickly agrees and this doesn’t seem odd to Bud. How many times have we seen people transfer large sums of money and there’s always some bait and switch involved? Certainly more times than Bud has. A snake in the suitcase filled with money bites him repeatedly, killing him.
This scene points to another problem with Quentin. He has cool ideas in regards to details, but no one is willing to tell him they make no sense. Elle recited some encyclopedic knowledge about Black Mamba snakes that she says she found on the Internet. There is something intriguing about reciting facts to a man about how he is dying and it’s also curious as to why she neatly printed all this information on a tiny notepad, but I couldn’t help but think what a waste of time it all was when she could have printed the page. I know it wouldn’t look as cool, but it would make more sense.
Elle and the Bride have a fight where they destroy Bud’s mobile home. During this scene we learn how Elle lost her eye then the Bride rips out the remaining one. As she flailed around screaming, I couldn’t help but think, wouldn’t someone who lost their eye be more wary of their remaining eye during a fight? I admit I didn’t see it coming, but wouldn’t she have? The Black Mamba snake, which apparently hid while the home was being destroyed, poses as the Bride walks out.
Their fight sequence was good, but it suffers like the rest of the film from the fact that there’s no suspense since we know the final scene involves Bill and [beep] together when she finds out about the kid. The Bride’s name is Beatrix Kiddo. So when people call her “Kiddo” the audience doesn’t know it’s her real name, get it. All the ecstasy Quentin did in China has really damaged him if he thinks that was worth it. He’s the Crackhead Bob of film directors.
In the end we see Bill and Beatrix’s love for each other, but lines have been crossed so there's only one option. She talks about how becoming pregnant changed her. We see this in a scene where she and another female assassin have a Mexican standoff. They talk with guns drawn. Beatrix proves she’s pregnant and the assassin leaves. Unbelievable, but that’s the way it happens. Beatrix goes into hiding. Bill says he thought he was following the people that killed her. Huh? Wha?? How long are you tracking an Asian gang before you realize that you’re following a young six-foot tall blonde?? The titular climatic moments finally comes. If you were paying attention, you already knew the form of Bill’s execution. There’s an old playwriting adage that says, "don't show a gun in the first act unless you intend to fire it in the third." Quentin tipped his hand early, once again removing all suspense. The real twist would have been for Bill to kill Beatrix.
When Mil writes the line “good old-fashioned plot twists that Hitchcock and Wilder could be proud of.” He’s has to be referring to writer Colleen Hitchcock and artist Webb Wilder because Alfred and Billy would not enjoy this film. Also I must call into question his statement “[Quentin’s] mastery of character and plot is not easily matched.” Over dinner at Palms Thai Restaurant where an Elvis impersonator works, I learned that Mil was surprised during the Final Chapter when the Bride showed up at Bill’s and discovered their daughter was there. When else would she have appeared? In KBV1 we learned that their daughter survived, but Mil said he had forgotten. I’ll have to ask if he forgot the title of the movie and was surprised when Bill was killed. This would explain how he could watch the movie three times in four days. Great screenplays don’t rely on faulty memories and short attention spans.
KBV2 is a story onto itself and I can’t imagine these films put together. Maybe I should thank Harvey and rethink my carpal tunnel suit because there’s no way I could have taken both pieces together. If you liked the first one, there might not be enough action in this one. If you don’t care about plot, characters, pacing, dialogue, and logic, then this film might be for you.
Word of warning: Miramax is planning to release a half-dozen different DVD editions related to Kill Bill, according to Rick Sands, chief operating officer at Miramax. "Vol. 1 goes out, Vol. 2 goes out, then Vol. 1 Special Edition, Vol. 2 Special Edition, the two-pack, then the Tarantino collection as a boxed set out for Christmas." Start saving up, suckers.
* The Oscar Wilde sketch written by Monty Python [I would guess Chapman & Cleese to be more specific, but couldn’t find it-EB]
** The Blues Brothers written by John Lanis and Dan Aykroyd