“Lone Wolfette and Cub”
To paraphrase the great philosopher Rich Mullins, “‘Revenge is mine saith the Lord’ … and I just want to be busy doing the Lord’s work.” Such is the spirit that informs much of Kill Bill vol. 2. It’s both hard and not so hard to address Kill Bill as two distinct movies. Yes, it does have the feel of splitting The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly into two movies. But at the same time, vol. 2 is so different in tone and rhythm from the first that you can’t help but think that a split was in the back of his mind from the beginning.
The real star of this movie is Quentin Tarantino. He has taken the various things that he loves (comic books, anime, kung fu movies, crime films, and above all spaghetti westerns), tossed them in a blender and spit out a movie sure to put a smile on a film geek’s face. To list the pop culture reference points that this movie plays homage to would bore all but the die hard movie geeks. But from the Hitchcock inspired opening sequence, the score almost lifted from Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns, obligatory kung fu training sequence, this is simply a masterpiece of film put together by a man who loves films. Like the best of his movies, Kill Bill was visceral, wild, stylish, and unpredictable, infused with a surprising amount of heart and humor. There was little of the kinetic, over the top violence. Let me re-define that: none of the blood spewing, limb severing spectacle. The violence in the first rose to the level of cartoonish, with blood spurting that–unless you, too, grew up on Saturday afternoon kung fu theater–you couldn’t appreciate. But there was a couple cringe worthy moments, most notably an eyeball plucking, during vol. 2.
At it’s heart, Kill Bill’s raison d’etre is to be a revenge movie. Not much of a plot, per se, only a countdown to the revenge moment in which we are invited along to enjoy the ride. The Bride (a hard-eyed Uma Thurman) has three names left to cross off her to do list: Budd (Michael Madsen, a Tarantino alum from Resevoir Dogs), Elle (Darryl Hannah), and Bill (David Carradine). Along the way, we learn the answers to the questions that propel the movie. How did Elle lose her eye? Why did Bill try to kill The Bride? What’s The Bride’s name? What happened to her baby?
There is a long tradition of revenge movies from Death Wish to The Crow. A good many of the spaghetti westerns and kung fu movies that Kill Bill draws from. The difference is that Kill Bill is a revenge movie with a heart. The movie revolves, as we come to find out in vol. 2, around relationships and consequences. This movie becomes even more of a female empowerment romp for The Bride as we learn why she was leaving Bill in the first place: to start a new life to raise their daughter in. Suddenly the movie becomes about the loner settling down. About a killer trying to leave their old life behind to start anew, with a “clean slate”, for the sake of her child. But to do that, she has to put to death the “old man” and by proxy, her old nature.
But this movie is also about consequences or as Bill puts it: “There are consequences for breaking the heart of a murdering bastard.” Revenge was also on Budd’s, Bill’s brother, mind when he buried The Bride alive saying “This if for breaking my brother’s heart.” And that is the crux of the matter. No matter how bad the life one has lead, they can always make a break and start anew. But, even if they are forgiven their past, there may still be consequences for that past. Bill admits that he may have “overreacted” and by way of apology, says “Somethings once you do, you can never undo.” Everyone wants to be redeemed, to have some meaning attached to their lives. The Bride finds her true calling, her self-salvation scheme, in the love she has for her child.
The movie is not for everyone. In a lot of ways, this movie has the quieter tone of Jackie Brown than the cold violence of Resevoir Dogs. The bottom line, great action, wonderfully acted characters, and brilliant direction. A genre film lovers dream.