Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

Rated R Our content rating V-8; L-4; S/N-2.

Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard his spots?
Then also you can do good
who are accustomed to do evil.
Jeremiah 13:23

General Template

Because of the flashbacks in Vo. 2, we can now appreciate better the first Kill Bill. Quentin Tarantino provides us the details of the back-stories of the pregnant Bride and her wedding party gathered at the Two Pines Wedding Chapel. You might recall that before the service could be completed, members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad broke in and massacred all the participants in an orgy of violence that made Chicago’s infamous St. Valentine Day’s Massacre seem like kindergarten play. Only the pregnant Bride (Uma Thurman) was not killed, but severely wounded, sinking into a long coma. Recovering several years later from her coma, and no longer pregnant, she wreaked dire vengeance on those who had abused her dormant body at the hospital. After persuading the legendary but retired master sword maker Hattori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba) to fashion her a new weapon, she tracked down and, amidst general mayhem, destroyed the Deadly Vipers and the members of the martial arts team known as The Crazy 88. We left her preparing to hunt down the man who had ordered her death, her mentor and former lover Bill (David Carradine). Vol. 2 really is not a sequel but a continuation of the first film.

Vo. 2 opens with a B&W scene of the Bride, whom we learn has a nameBeatrix—driving toward the town where another of the assassins, Bill’s younger brother Budd (Michael Madsen) has retired to the life of a club bouncer. From him she hopes to learn the whereabouts of Bill, as well as even the score with him. In a flashback we learn that Bill had taken her to China to study under the master warrior Pai Mei: Gordon Liu). Dwelling on a hilltop accessible only by climbing up a steep flight of narrow steps, Pai Mei is so haughty and disdainful of her that he makes even the toughest Marine drill instructor seem like Mr. Rogers by comparison. From him she learns all the ins and outs of martial arts fighting, including a deadly blow that only Hattori had mastered the secret of.

Of course, when the Bride catches up with Budd, matters do not go as planned, she winding up buried six feet deep in a coffin. The screen is reduced in size to simulate what is truly a frightening scene of confinement and near-asphyxiation. Never has the sound of earth falling onto a coffin (the camera takes us inside, giving us the Bride’s viewpoint, so those with even a touch of claustrophobia might want to take a popcorn break) resounded so ominously, the sound fading as the layer of piled-on earth becomes deeper. Next (no, I won’t spoil describing the harrowing escape.) comes a blood-curdling duel with Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), a deadly swordfighter who has lost an eye in past combat. The incredibly choreographed fight leaves Bud’s trailer home in shambles and us in the audience gasping at the fate of the other eye!

When the Bride finally meets up with Bill, he reveals a surprising secret that could make a great difference in her life, should she live through the night. Their last conversation together sparking with energy, the dialogue was co-written by Uma Thurman. Earlier, we had seen that Bill had been present at the would-be wedding, he arriving well ahead of his death squad. Learning that the Bride had met her groom while working at his used-record store, Bill cannot fathom how she would settle for such a mundane life after years of such excitement working in his trade of killing. In the present, Bill uses the example of Superman to point out that the Bride cannot expect to change her nature and settle for domesticity. He explains that, unlike lesser heroes such as Spiderman, the Man from Krypton was born as Superman, not transformed by nature into him. Thus his Clark Kent is Superman’s “critique on the whole world”a phony pretending to be what he isn’t, just as the Bride could not hope to escape her true nature by marrying an ordinary man and living an ordinary life. “You are a natural born killer,” Bill proclaims, bringing to mind still another film that Tarantino must admire, as well as the old spaghetti Westerns.

Quentin Tarantino’s films are not for everyone. One must enter into his spirit of play, his films being both homage and a satirical take-off on the Hong Kong and American action and Western films he so dearly (we might say obsessively) loves. In many ways this film reminded me of the old Western Duel in the Sun, except that there is a somewhat different ending, Tarantino’s being a little more hopeful that maternal instincts might be able to conquer one’s killer instincts (and thus prove Bill wrong). The violence is over the top, as are the characters and situations, so one must lay aside for a while any notion of turning the other cheek and loving enemies. This two-part film is the ultimate send-up of all the action-vengeance films of the past forty years. This is Escapism with a Capital “E”.” Nobody does such films better than Tarantino! Oh yes, look closely in the flashback to the wedding chapel to catch a glimpse or two of a certain African American actor in his cameo as the Organ Player. And hang around also for most of the credits.

For reflection/discussion

1) How does the second part add to your understanding and enjoyment of Vol. 1? Which do you think the two-part film is more aboutviolence, or relationships?

2) In the flashback to the attempted assassination while the Bride is looking at the result of her home pregnancy test, what is it that stays the hand of her would-be killer? How does this affect the ending of the film?

3) How is Bill’s take on Clark Kent and the Bride similar to what Jeremiah said to sinful Israel? What does Tarantino seem to say, judging by the way he ends the film? What do you think?