I can only describe Tarantino's most recent, two-volume film as masterful. The slightly more introspective Volume 2 of Kill Bill is every bit as lively as the first installment with even more satisfying insights.
Kill Bill Vol. 2 finally gives our heroine a name, Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman), as we follow her to her next three victims and delve into her past. The unshaven and sad figure of Bud (Michael Madsen) contrasts with the starkly angled and beautiful, yet ruthless Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah). In this installment Kiddo continues her self-proclaimed "roaring rampage" with only two more obstacles standing between her and Bill (David Carradine), whom we finally get to meet. And throughout her venture, Vol. 2 builds, in a wonderfully excruciating way, to its oh-so satisfying climactic release.
Kiddo's passion for Bill is exposed as Tarantino reveals the charm and brutality in their love's past, as well as its haunted present. Bill's introduction as a wistful and sweet ex-lover comes as he prepares for the bridal massacre. Kiddo's penultimate expression of devotion is in her dedicated killing spree, with the lion's share of love left for Bill. When they finally meet again her tears are frighteningly real as she struggles through the horror of having to slog through emotional truths in their final confrontation. She switches from frustration, to anger, to love in the most subtly intense shifts, both in the twitching muscles of Thurman's face, as well as Tarantino's crafted scene changes.
And yet the comic book humor and adventure appeal are certainly not lost. Every genre of camp pops up somewhere in Kill Bill. The Wild West appears as Kiddo traipses through nostalgic, backlit desert scenes, with the spaghetti western sounds of Ennio Morricone or the sad twang of Johnny Cash. The freedom of the road comes through as she careens through rural Mexico, ensconced in fervent flamenco. While the comic book genre is not quite as explicitly present as in the eruptive and frenzied animation of the first volume, it lends style and color to the whole film, and specifically draws attention to itself in a soliloquy concerning superheroes. The Kung Fu flick is also obviously utilized in the chapter "The Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei." Although Tarantino is the voice, Gordon Liu plays Pai Mei, a harsh master with insanely long and swooping eyebrows, a cascading mustache, and a long thin beard, both starkly white against his darker skin. The chapter is punctuated with classic kung fu fight scenes often in silhouette.
Tarantino uses classic shots often but with care. Vol. 2 opens in black and white, with a front view of Kiddo driving a convertible, moving against an obvious backdrop, as she addresses the audience directly. The flashback to her perilous wedding is also black and white, but with a completely different effect. The film here is ultra-grainy and sweetly nasty. Kiddo in her pristine wedding dress glows a bright gritty white, effervescent in her misguided complacence. There is also the black, blank screen shot, punctuated by the bits of color a flashlight brings. Familiar techniques like these can seem trite, but in their self-ware excess here, they are both comical and engaging references. Also, with the use of chapters as a separating technique, Tarantino weaves the disparate genres and filmic allusions into a delicate harmony that, while intense, was not at all grating.
The multi-faceted, multi-genre of Tarantino's latest Kill Bill will entertain multiple types of moviegoer. Come for the action, stay for the story and enjoy the references (they'll still be amusing even if you don't get them all). And though I may have wished to see Volumes One and Two together, it's definitely worth paying twice to see.