A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 449 – Kill Bill vol. 2

Kill Bill vol. 2 – May 23rd, 2011

I’ve always felt it odd that this movie and last night’s were meant to be a single film. And from what I’ve read the decision to split the story into two parts came late in the game, which means a ton of it had been filmed. So I have to wonder if they’d been laid out yet. The episodic nature of them certainly would allow for some mixing and matching and the movies both play with timelines, so it’s entirely possible that had it been one long movie things might have been paced differently. I don’t know. I’m not Tarantino. As it stands, however, this movie just plain feels different than the first one and with good reason.

While we watched this evening I tried to explain how I saw the differences to a friend who’s not as familiar with the movies. I ended up having to list the important moments and plot points in the two and what I came up with was that where the first one is a barrage of choreographed fight scenes where the Bride is a vengeful badass, the second one spends a lot more time listening to what she has to say instead of watching what she has to do. We got our introduction to her as a deadly assassin in the first movie. We get our introduction to her as a person in this one. And I find that interesting. This movie isn’t as focused on the vengeance as it is on the Bride herself. The character, not the plot. And I’ve got to say I rather like that because I like that the Bride is a person here, not just a killing machine. And really, that’s part of the point of the background we get for her.

This movie is episodic, like the first one was, but while the episodes are announced by title card and all they don’t feel so clearly delineated. They bleed into each other more. They’re rougher around the edges. At the same time, I still get the feeling that this movie could have been split up and shown as a serial before other movies in the theater and Tarantino’s the sort of guy who I think would get a kick out of that. But the rougher splits between the sections definitely affect the feel and flow of the movie. So too do the locales used. Instead of the sleek scenery of Tokyo and the suburban settings of the first movie we get rural Texas and a remote temple in China and overgrown haciendas in Mexico. Everything feels isolated and out of the way. Off the beaten path. The people in it are rougher. Instead of Vernita in her soccer mom duds and manicured lawn we get Budd in his old bowling shirt and trailer in the desert. It’s a more intimate world our heroine has gotten to.

Of course, she’s still looking for Bill. And Bill knows she’s coming and he’s warned the remnants of the old gang. Now, I find the dynamics here interesting. Budd’s clearly had a falling out with his brother, Bill. He’s left the assassination squad and works as a bouncer in a strip club that never seems to have any customers. That’s a pretty long way to fall and we’re never given the exact reason. In fact, it seem the only member of the crew still working with Bill is Elle Driver. It’s implied in the first movie that Vernita got out around when she herself got pregnant (her girl’s about the same age as our heroine’s would be, so it stands to reason she didn’t stick around) and O-Ren’s gone on to bigger things. Elle’s apparently trying to take the Bride’s place as Bill’s favorite, which apparently never quite worked out, and then there’s Budd. Why did he leave? What did he argue with Bill about? Was it the attack in the chapel? He clearly has some remorse over it, but he’s also not about to sacrifice himself in the name of penance. He’s a scumbag who knows he’s a scumbag and lives with it. He’s a fascinating character and Michael Madsen plays him well.

Elle Driver is the other baddie here. She’s a far less in-control version of our heroine. The version who wanted all the things our heroine has and had but can’t quite manage it. She can’t quite get Bill. She couldn’t get the sword. She couldn’t get the training. She doesn’t deserve it and she hates that and therefore hates our heroine with a vicious and fiery passion. We never get much in the way of background for her, much like we don’t get much in the way of background for Uma Thurman’s character. Daryl Hannah plays Elle as a fact-obsessed sociopath and she does so with relish. Watching them face off together is one of my favorite moments in the movie. It’s a far less polished fight scene than anything in the first movie, but that’s the point. And we get to see just how much better our heroine is. Of course.

One of the other things I love about this movie is the training sequence with kung fu master Pai Mei. He’s a fantastic classic kung fu master, though not of the type who appears to be a regular every day guy. He lives in a temple on a mountain, all by himself, and teaches things like how to punch through wood with only three inches of clearance and how to pluck an eyeball out and how to kill someone with pressure points. But only after one has gained his trust and respect, which is, of course, a grueling task. There’s some great character development for the Bride here, long before she put on a wedding dress. Not only do we see that determination has always been one of her strong suits, but that she was enthusiastic at one point, and thoroughly enamoured of Bill. Watching her with Bill as he tells her a story about Pai Mei while they sit at a campfire is a fantastic look into her life before it all fell apart. Watching her with Bill outside the chapel even closer to the crucial pivot point in their lives is similar. You can see the relationship between the two of them and a level of understanding that wasn’t apparent in the first movie. I like how that’s expanded upon well before we get to Bill at the end of the movie here.

The thing is, the movie spends a lot of time on all these relationships. As I said early on, this is a movie that is more concerned with the character than the plot. We finally learn her name, though I’m still not sure why it was buzzed out all through the first one and into the beginning of this one. It’s not a particularly impressive reveal. It just is. Anyhow. We get to know her, and that takes a lot more talking and non-actiony interactions between characters. It’s not an entirely stationary movie but it ambles instead of zooms.

By the time we hit the end and we see Bill and Beatrix (yep, that’s her name) and little B.B. we know why Beatrix left the group and we know why Bill killed off the whole wedding party, including the organist, and we know that the two of them had something. And now it’s gone. It was inevitable. While I could quibble over the pacing of the movie (I think it could have benefited from a little more editing) and I didn’t really need to see Budd at work at the strip club to understand where he is in his life (I’d rather have seen more of Elle’s life), overall I rather like this movie. It’s an odd marriage between it and the first part, but it still deals with vengeance. It’s just moved beyond what Beatrix is willing to do to get to Bill and moved on to what she’s willing to endure. And Uma Thurman carries off every moment, from the steely focus on beating her opponents to the determination to gain Pai Mei’s respect to the grinning protege to a brutal killer to the weeping mother finally reunited with her child. It’s a fantastic performance and she ties the movie together, episode by episode, to make a whole.

May 23, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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