On Screen

Tarantino's 'Vol. 2': Moving In for the Kill

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 16, 2004

A GOOEY HUMAN organ goes very graphically splat in "Kill Bill Vol. 2," Quentin Tarantino's operatically violent yet cartoonish conclusion (and I mean all that in a good way) to his two-part revenge fantasy about a woman's herculean efforts to punish her former lover. No, I'm not talking about the body part that our heroine, known as the Bride (Uma Thurman), plucks out of her long-time nemesis, Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), one of several assassins that stand between the protagonist and her ultimate target, aka Bill (David Carradine).

The organ I'm talking about here is the human heart. Yes, "Kill Bill Vol. 2" is a love story, darkly, acerbically told, a love story that was only hinted at in "Vol. 1," but that is here filled in with meticulous detail. You didn't think the Bride's fury at being shot in the head and left for dead was the only emotion motivating her, did you?

Her relationship with Bill – complex, knotty, toxic and, in a grotesque way, beautiful – is one of the chief subjects of this film. That's on top of the fact that, in this installment, the Bride learns, as we did at the end of the first movie, that the unborn baby that was in her womb at the time of her attack has survived. Consequently, the body count here is dramatically lower, while the word count is much higher.

Is it a chatty film? Hardly. There's still plenty of action, as in the Bride's showdown with Elle in a ratty trailer, and her earlier run-in with Elle's fellow assassin, Budd (Michael Madsen). In what is probably the most harrowing use of a black screen and evocative sound effects I have ever seen, Budd at one point even buries the Bride alive. It's one of the hardest scenes you may ever have to watch – and there's nothing to watch. And a lengthy flashback sequence showing the Bride's martial arts training with kung fu master Pai Mei (Gordon Liu in a ridiculously silky long white wig and beard) is filled with visual excitement and humor, not to mention useful back story.

Still, a large set piece of the film is a single long conversation, one that takes place between the Bride and Bill in which we learn exactly why she left him and his employ four years ago, why he tracked her down to kill her on her wedding day, and why, once she finds him, killing him is the easiest and, at the same time, the hardest thing she probably has ever done. It's a fascinating discourse, richly philosophical and yet pointless, filled with layers of character and emotions that flash alternately hot and cold. What's more, it's cool.

As he did in his earlier film, Tarantino mixes "Vol. 2" up stylistically, gleefully stirring film noir, Western, kung fu, samurai and horror-flick idioms together into a nonlinear narrative that is baroque but never ponderous, playful in its use of pop music and, in a way, profound, all at the same time.

Don't get me wrong. "Kill Bill Vol. 2" is anything but heavy. It's a comic book at heart, albeit a thoroughly, grandly romantic one in the end.

Bill once really loved the Bride, it seems. Remember how he said that his shooting her was an expression, not of sadism, but of him at his "most masochistic"? It's as if, by shooting her, he was attempting to kill a part of himself – or perhaps as if he knew, deep down, that she would one day come back to get him. When we finally meet him, his ardor has cooled from a flame to a kind of icy resignation about his own fate.

The Bride, of course, doesn't love Bill any more. Far from it. Surprisingly though, the passion they once shared has been replaced, at least on her part, with something quite other than hate. Some bonds run deeper than lust, you will discover, as Tarantino's heroine makes one final transformation, from vengeful Bride to . . . doting Mother.

KILL BILL VOL. 2 (R, 136 minutes) Contains obscenity, drug content and plentiful violence. Area theaters.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company