It was a risky move, but when Quentin Tarantino split his film Kill
Bill into two movies he did the right thing. Not because audiences
wouldn't be able to watch a four hour long movie, but because the two parts
are distinctly different films. As where part one (reviewed here)
is a "roaring rampage of revenge" to quote Volume 2's own description
of its predecessor, the second half is more restrained, unfolding at its
own pace. The first pays homage to the martial arts films of the 70s,
while the second takes its inspiration from the westerns of the 60s.
Still stylized and gorgeous, Volume 2 is a bit better than the first
installment, though not by much. Both have been released on Blu-ray
and they've never looked or sounded better. Two 'must-have' discs for
any action film collection.
In the first installment viewers are introduced to The Bride (Uma Thurman.)
During her wedding, when she's nearly full term on her pregnancy, a group
of assassins barges in on the ceremony and kills everyone who is present:
The groom, the minister, the guests, and even the organ player. The
Bride herself, the reason for the attack, is beaten senseless and then shot
in the head.
Only she doesn't die. She goes into a coma and four years later wakes
up. Her last memories are of the wedding parting being slaughtered by
Bill and his team of assassins. A team she was once part of.
Filled with rage she makes a list of those that were responsible and starts
to hunt them down.
Volume two starts off where the first one left off. The Bride gives
a brief introduction that serves to bring viewers up to speed without boring
those that recently saw the first part, and then the film gets rolling.
Once again Tarantino plays with time, jumping forwards and backwards with
ease but never confusing or muddling the plot.
This installment answers a lot of the questions raised in the first movie.
Viewers finally discover what happened at The Bride's wedding (the wedding
rehearsal actually) and, eventually, what she did to incur Bill's wrath.
Her training with the white-haired martial arts master Pai Mei is shown, as
well as the fate of her child. In between these revelations she
hunts down the people who stole her life from her.
While not nearly as bloody or over the top as the Volume 1, this
movie is just as engrossing, if not more so. The main problem with
the first half of this two-part film was that it did have much substance.
This half makes up for that by filling in the characters more fully.
While the story started off with an explosion of violence, it ends with a
more philosophical look at the world. It's like the film itself matured
over its running time, from an angry young thing to a more thoughtful creature
ready to meet the world on its own terms.
Once again the acting is outstanding. Though Uma Thurman's soliloquy
at the beginning of the film feels a little forced, the rest of her performance
is wonderful. She really makes her character seem real. From the
way she kills without emotion to the scene where she's crying in the coffin
and the part where she tells an assassin who has a bead on her that she's
pregnant, Thurman makes The Bride seem tough as nails but also very vulnerable.
The other standout is Michael Madsen who is magnificent as Budd, an ex-assassin
who's now a bouncer in a titty-bar and lives in a dilapidated trailer.
He's cold but pragmatic and makes his character just as creepy as the one
he played in Reservoir Dogs.
It's clear that Tarantino wanted to pull the rug from under the viewer with
this film. It often builds up to something and then switches gears in
a masterful way. Have you ever been watching a movie and thought "I
know what's going to happen for the rest of the film"? Well you'll say
that in this movie, after all it's filled with foreshadowing, but you'll be
wrong on a lot of the details. Like the first part, this is a movie
for film fans, people who are tired of seeing the same story again and again.
Tarantino tells a familiar story, but he does it with such flair and with
so many small, unexpected twists that it will seem fresh again.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Like the first installment, the AVC MPEG-4 encoded 2.40:1 image looks
simply wonderful. This is a very stylized film, with every attention
paid to color and the various bright tones just pop off the screen.
All of the colors are solid and very bright, and the blacks are likewise inky
and deep. The level of detail is excellent with even the smallest background
items having tight lines. Digitally the disc looks just as impressive
with aliasing, posterization, and blocking being nonexistent. There
is still a bit of digital noise in a few scenes, when The Bride is looking
at the Texas desert during the rehearsal for example, but it's very mild.
When all is said and done, this is a very impressive looking disc.
The audio track is just as impressive too. The disc comes with an
uncompressed PCM track that is superb along with DD 5.1 tracks in English
and French. The PCM track really puts the viewer in the middle of the
film. During the fight scenes the sound of glass breaking and people
screaming comes from all corners of the room. These noises have a great
amount of directionality too. The effects are nicely panned from front
to back and across the whole soundstage creating a very enveloping feeling.
The background music, mostly made up of songs from other movies, has a great
range and is clean and clear throughout the film. Like the video, this
is a first rate presentation.
Alas, the only place that this disc falters, as the first one did, is with
the extras. There's another behind-the-scenes docu (presented in 480
i/p) that's filled with clips from the movie and interviews with the stars
and crew. It runs a just short of half an hour and while it wasn't
bad, it wasn't exciting either. Aside from that there's a music video
and a single deleted scene that's pretty disposable. It's too bad that
Tarantino didn't beef up the extras on these blu-ray releases.
Tarantino took a gamble by first cutting Kill Bill in two and then by significantly
changing the tone and style of the second half. His gamble paid off
however, as Volume 2 plays out as a better film than Volume 1
in a lot of ways. No matter which half you prefer however, be sure
to snag copies of the pair on Blu-ray. The sound and picture are fantastic.
Both the film and the disc itself are highly recommended.
Note: The images in this review are not taken from the Blu-ray disc
and is not necessarily representative of the image quality.