Second instalment of Tarantino's "roaring rampage of revenge" is a little heavy on the dialogue
DIRECTED BY Quentin Tarantino
STARRING Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah
Opened April 26, Cert 18, 140 mins
It’s been a long, hard six months for the Tarantino faithful. After delivering the synapse-frying grindhouse classic Kill Bill Volume 1 way back last October, contemporary Hollywood’s last great directing icon retreated to Miramax headquarters with long-time editor Sally Menke and laboured over the concluding chapter for three times longer than expected. Here, at last, is his labour of love, the second volume of “The 4th Film By Quentin Tarantino”, and it’s a curious experience: leisurely and underwhelming to the same degree that Volume 1 was audacious and compelling.
As we left The Bride (Uma Thurman) at the close of Volume 1, she was headed for a reckoning with the remaining members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad?Elle Driver (Hannah) Budd (Madsen) and Bill himself (Carradine). Volume 2 opens with a lengthy flashback to the apocalyptic wedding ceremony we glimpsed in Volume 1, and we finally get to meet David Carradine’s hypnotically evil Bill in all his charming snake-like glory. This meticulously paced monochrome sequence sets the pace for the next two hours plus, over the course of which Tarantino immerses the audience in a procession of beautifully shot scenes that are heavy on his trademark pop culture-tweaking dialogue and light on jaw-dropping kung fu slaughter.
There are notable exceptions. We get a horrific live burial, a lengthy flashback to The Bride’s training with kung fu master Pai Mei (Gordon Liu) and a hardcore showdown between The Bride and the ferociously unpleasant Elle Driver. These sequences are worth the price of admission, but they account for 15 minutes out of 140. The rest is a Tarantino talking-heads fest, almost as if he’s answering Volume 1’s too-much-action-not-enough-dialogue detractors by cramming in every piece of dialogue-heavy footage he could lay his hands on.
As you’d expect, much of this dialogue is clever, but there’s way too much of it, almost as if QT couldn’t bear to part with a single sentence. Most problematically, apart from the odd lapse into death-dealing female assassin action, Volume 2 is essentially made up of one showy monologue after another. There are very few real conversations here, just an endless procession of gifted actors spouting soliloquies. The thing is, when one rapid-fire show-stopping monologue just follows another, QT’s unique pop-culture patois loses its charm. By the time Carradine’s climactic digression on Superman rolls around, it’s hard not to feel Tarantino is just wanking himself into a coma.
Some of this repetition is offset by the sheer power of the lead performances. Thurman excels once more as the indestructible, iron-willed Bride, and Hannah is transformed as her snarling nemesis Elle Driver?never has a beautiful actress looked more fucking unpleasant. Although QT regular Madsen is unexpectedly wasted as Bill’s brother Budd (and fails to deliver the trademark menace he brings to even his most minor roles), David Carradine is a revelation. His beguiling, villainous Bill is a fantastic creation, and he effortlessly dominates the whole movie, distilling 30 years of Kung Fu re-runs and genre acting assignments into one truly mesmerising personal-best performance.
So what has Tarantino left us with as the elaborate end credits roll on Volume 2? Mainly the suspicion that one two-and-a-half-hour single volume would’ve been fucking mind-blowing and that what we’ve just sat through is the second bloated instalment of an overlong, overly-indulgent obsessive-fanboys-only special edition. While his demented Volume 1 was blessed with a surfeit of expertly realised action sequences that eclipsed any obvious structural defects, Volume 2’s far more traditional approach lays bare the undeniable fact that this is really only 50 per cent of a four-hour wet dream. One that could have done with some trademark snipping from scissor-happy Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein. Sure, Tarantino’s movie-geek genius remains undimmed, and there’s plenty of memorable moments in Kill Bill Volume 2 but, after the euphoria-inducing, cliffhanger-ending brilliance of Volume 1, it’s a distinct anti-climax.