[MOVIE REVIEW]Tarantino delivers ‘Bill’s’ better halfWe aren’t made to wait long for Bill. In last fall’s “Kill Bill: Vol. 1,” he appeared in bits and scraps ― a voice, a hand on a telephone. “Vol. 2,” opening today in Korea, has him in full black menace in the opening minutes, in the craggy, desert-weathered person of David Carradine. Reposed on a bench outside a church, he looks like a goat in a suit ― some murderous pagan animal-god. The effect might have to do with the fact that we know he’s about to kill everybody in the church.
It’s a pleasure to report that “Vol. 2,” the second half of what adds up to a four-hour gutbuster Western kung-fu comic-book tragedy from hipster auteur Quentin Tarantino, has the tension and substance that were missing from the first. “Vol. 1” was a flashy, meaningless kill spree ― we knew that “the Bride” (Uma Thurman) was hunting down the assassins who’d slaughtered her wedding party, chief among whom was Bill, but that was about all we knew, other than the fact that she’d been carrying Bill’s baby.
The first moments of “Vol. 2” give us a masterful black-and-white scene outside a Texas chapel ― a tense pas de deux between Bill, in black, and the Bride, in white for her wedding to someone else, minutes before the massacre she doesn’t know is coming. All of a sudden, a lot more makes sense, and the storytelling octane has been jacked up considerably.
There are a few recognizably human characters this time. Pretty much everyone in “Vol. 1” was a cartoon ― including the Bride, who never does develop a third dimension, which makes you a little embarrassed for Thurman and Tarantino when they ostentatiously share screen credit for creating the character. Much more fun to watch is Budd (Michael Madsen), Bill’s brother and one of the assassins. Apparently a master swordsman, he now lives in solitary alcoholic dissipation in a trailer in the desert, working as a strip club bouncer for money. The suggestion is that his honor demands his own degradation for taking part in the wedding slaughter. “That woman deserves her revenge,” he tells Bill, who’s comes to warn him about the Bride. “And we deserve to die.” Then again, he adds after thinking about it, so does she...
But it’s 67-year-old Carradine, the latest B-movie hanger-about rediscovered by Tarantino, who has the most to do with making this second act such an improvement over the first. A murderous desert creature who can be disarmingly warm, his Bill is a charismatic and complicated “villain,” if that’s the word. He gives the story the center it had been missing ― gives the Bride someone to play against, rather than someone merely to kill off. You can believe the two were in love once, which is key to believing the whole movie, once you see where it’s going.
Of course, “believing” a movie that includes such pulp-fictiony devices as having a bad guy inject someone with a truth serum of his own invention (“I call it The Undisputed Truth”) only goes so far. It’s just an action movie, and it exists for the simple pleasures of moviemaking ― inventive fight scenes, fast cuts, plot twists, deadpan-funny dialogue, flashbacks and flash-forwards, cool music, scenes in Japanese (without English subtitles in the Korean release, but you can follow it;I think I caught “gaijin”). Great fun, and there’s even a story this time.
Kill Bill: Vol. 2
Action / English
by David Moll