Director Quentin Tarantino’s peon to 1970s exploitation and grindhouse cinema concludes with the second installment of his Kill Bill saga.

Having dispatched with two of her would be killers in the first volume, The Bride (Uma Thurman) continues on her “roaring rampage of revenge”. But before she confronts Bill (David Carradine), the man who ordered her death, she must first defeat two more of her former teammates. However, when she finally faces Bill, she learns what we the audience learned at the end of the previous film- the daughter she thought was dead is still alive.

Where the first film packed a wallop from its visceral and oft times brutal fight sequences, Volume 2 delivers a more emotionally charged punch. Kill Bill Volume 1 was a story of revenge that relied heavily on the tropes of blaxploitation and kung fu films. Volume 2 owes more to Japanese samurai pictures and spaghetti westerns with its stronger emphasis on the psychological aspects of revenge and retribution. The assassins that the Bride goes against in this installment are stronger, more complex characters. Bill’s brother Bud (Michael Madsen) is tired of the death that defined his life and has seemingly exiled himself to a battered trailer home in the dessert. He realizes that there is a price to be paid for the life he has lead. “I don’t dodge guilt,” Bud explains to his brother when informed that the Bride was on her way. “She deserves her revenge and we deserve to die,” Darryl Hannah deliciously shades the hatred her character Elle Driver holds for the Bride with just the right air of respect for her prowess as a fighter. When the two finally square off, it is the film’s most intense battle, brutal and desperate.

Carradine has the role of a lifetime in Bill, a man who exudes a hypnotic, deadly charm, like the poisonous snakes he uses as codenames for his assassins. It’s easy to see from the writing why Tarantino’s first choice for the role of Bill was actual Warren Beatty. However, the casting of Carradine was the right way to go. The film’s opening sequence between Bill and the Bride conveys volumes of their history not through expository dialogue, but through subtle shadings of their line delivery. It’s great work and serves to set up the film’s climactic confrontation between the two. Even when we see Bill playing with the Bride’s daughter B. B. an undercurrent of quietly restrained menace lies behind his doting father exterior.

Quentin again utilizes many old genre stars in small roles, this time Bo Svenson (Walking Tall, Part II, 1975), Jeanne Epper (Foxy Brown, 1974) and Sid Haig (Coffey, 1973) in small roles. Hong Kong martial arts cinema star Gordon Liu returns this time playing kung fu master Pai Mei. Liu literally grew up in the Hong Kong cinema (his first film work was at age seven) and knows intimately the type of character Pai Mei is. The character feels transplanted directly from a Shaw Brothers film. Also returning from the first film in a new role is Michael Parks, playing a Mexican pimp who can direct the Bride to Bill.

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About Rich Drees 7153 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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