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The murderous Bride continues her vengeance quest against her ex-boss, Bill, and his two remaining associates; his younger brother Budd, and Bill's latest flame Elle.
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Kill Bill Volume II should not be considered a sequel to Volume I. Rather, it is the second part of the same epic story. Together, they run four hours, so it was decided to break the movie in half and to release the two pictures several months apart. Yet, despite being two halves of the same story, each volume has a unique, distinct feel.
Volume I featured thrilling fight sequences, but it lacked what made Quentin Tarantino’s previous movies so memorable – namely, the intense character stories and the fantastic, lengthy dialogue exchanges. Those storytelling elements were reserved for Volume II. Volume I ended on the cliffhanger that The Bride’s daughter was in fact alive, and had not died when the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad tried to kill The Bride.
A quick reminder of the story so far. The Bride was a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DVAS), a lethal group of professional killers led by Bill, a.k.a. Snake Charmer. They were The Bride, a.k.a. Black Mamba, Elle Driver, a.k.a. California Mountain Snake, O-Ren Ishii, a.k.a. Cottonmouth, and Budd, a.k.a. Sidewinder. For reasons to be revealed in Volume II, Bill and the rest of the DVAS tried to kill The Bride. She survived but was in a coma for four years. When The Bride recovered, she began her revenge, taking out O-Ren and Vernita Green in Volume I.
The story is broken into chapters and told in non-chronological, non-sequential order – much like Tarantino’s previous movies. This is a storytelling technique that can fail miserably, but in the hands of a writer/director like Quentin Tarantino, it can be wildly successful, always keeping the audience guessing both what has already happened and what is yet to occur. Not since the legendary Sergio Leone has this time-shifting narrative been employed so skillfully, and while Kill Bill is an homage to legendary martial arts movies, it also pays tribute to Sergio Leone.
Budd (Bill’s brother) has gone from being a lethal, well-paid assassin to a drunken, white-trash bouncer at a seedy strip club. He is guilt-ridden over what they did to The Bride, and when Bill visits him to warn of The Bride’s roaring, rampaging revenge, Budd goes so far as to say that they all deserve to die. But before we see The Bride’s showdown with Budd, we flash back to the massacre at the Twin Pines Wedding Chapel.
The Bride had left the DVAS behind, gone into hiding, met a man, gotten knocked up and became engaged. At the wedding rehearsal, Bill and the DVAS have tracked her down. Bill punishes The Bride by killing every single person at the rehearsal - even the priest and the piano player – for not only was The Bride a Viper, but she was also Bill’s lover, and The Bride’s unborn daughter was, in fact, Bill’s child, not the fiancee’s. Before the massacre, Bill and The Bride had stepped outside to talk, and they’ve had a lengthy, well-written exchange that reveals what The Bride’s been up to since leaving the DVAS. Bill seems amiable, but we also sense that there is real danger here. Bill at first wishes her well, but the viewer just knows that Bill has an ulterior motive. Bill reveals the nature of his character when, during the killing, he explains that he is not being sadistic. Rather, this is Bill at his “most masochistic.” He loves The Bride but he cannot forgive her, nor can he leave her unpunished.
The Bride makes her move on Budd, but he’s ready for her and gets the drop on her. Budd puts her in a coffin and buries her alive. We then jump way, way back in time and see The Bride and Bill, much younger and indeed in love. What follows is a wonderful scene between the two, sitting in the dark by a campfire. Bill tells The Bride the tale of Pai Mei, the legendary martial arts instructor that mentored Bill. The Bride goes to train under the “cruel tutelage of Pai Mei,” a truly wonderful and unique character, played deftly by Gordon Liu. The Bride stays with Pai Mei for a year, and during that time, she is taught a technique that will later let her free herself from the coffin.
The Bride’s real name has finally been revealed to be Beatrix Kiddo. For reasons I’ve never fully understood, up to this point, every time her name was said aloud by a different chraracter, the sound was bleeped out. I’m not sure why Tarantino chose to do this. But from here on out, The Bride is referred to as Beatrix, or, by Bill, as Kiddo.
Beatrix’s Death List is now nearly complete. All she has left is Bill, and that’s her next stop. When she arrives, she is stunned beyond words that her and Bill’s daughter is alive and well, four years old and named B.B. Her reaction is a mix of joy, horror, relief, happpiness, sadness and an even greater hatred for Bill. All of these emotions at once are captured deftly by Uma Thurman in a terrific performance.
After B.B. goes to bed, Beatrix and Bill get down to business. Their exchange of dialogue is lengthy foreplay for their eventual showdown. As one would expect from Tarantino, this scene of dialogue is remarkably long and includes a flashback as well. The already-tense atmosphere is sent through the roof when Bill suddenly shoots Beatrix in the leg with a dart containing a truth serum of his own concoction. Beatrix has no choice but to confess why she left the DVAS and tried to go into hiding. Even more painfully, she has to confess both to Bill and to herself that deep down, she always knew that this attempt to reinvent herself was never going to work. People like Bill and Beatrix are who they are, and they can never change.
Beatrix and Bill finally square off, and although their battle is brief and the outcome as predictable as the title suggests, the climax is no less satisfying. Beatrix and B.B. run away, and the movie ends with the mother lion and her cub reunited, and all is right with the world.
Kill Bill Volume I and II are both good movies on their own, but as one picture, they are a masterpiece, an opera of violence and a tale of revenge unlike any other. I have always hoped that we might one day see a Kill Bill Volume III, but with David Carradine’s passing, that would now prove impossible. There is a deleted scene of the Volume II DVD, however, and a couple of great scenes in the screenplay, that would make for more compelling action and character backstory. Like the filmed deleted scene, there are unfilmed, scripted scenes that reveal Bill, much younger and in his prime, before his formation of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. He was lethal. Another scene would have revealed GoGo Yubari’s twin sister’s attempt to avenge GoGo’s death, and Elle Driver, despite the condition Beatrix left her in, would still be alive and kicking and really, really mad. Lastly, in Volume I, Beatrix suspected that Vernita Green’s daughter might one day seek revenge. Perhaps Volume III could be called “Kill Beatrix!” At any rate, any hope of a third volume is wishful thinking, and we are left to enjoy Kill Bill Volumes I and II and the epic moviemaking that they represent.