Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004) — Tarantino’s excuse to ogle bare feet

“Wakey wakey, eggs and bakey.”

Justin’s rating: It’s 15 minutes of good film crammed into a scant 136 minutes!

Justin’s review: A man walks into your room and sits down in the creaky lounge chair opposite of you. Tapping out a single Red Apple cigarette from a box, Quentin Tarantino smirks at you before lighting it. As he talks, he waves the lit stick around like a deranged conductor, punctuating his sentences with red-hot jabs.

“I suppose your mind is all abuzz with wonder why I, a Great and Respected filmmaker, am gracing your lowly abode with my prestigious rump. I don’t just suppose this; I know, for among my many abilities is the power to READ PEOPLE’S MINDS. Does that not impress you?

“Oh, I know many other things as well, my pet lemming. I have been to the past and seen your intense admiration for Kill Bill Vol. 1. I lent you my handkerchief to wipe away the excess drool that flowed out of your mouth while you witnessed my sheer mastery of motion pictures. I graciously allowed you to kiss the very boots I wear today, because I’ve heard your harsh words about my previous films, and at that moment, you had to eat them. You had to acknowledge that I, the Man and the Smirk, was the guru.

“Yet the keenest wound given to an enemy is to offer a luscious prize, wait for your prey to bite in and savor the taste, then yank it away and replace it with mildewy sawdust. You have to chew on that packed, green dust, tricked into believing that I had changed my ways when all I wanted was to fool you. To fool all of the others into thinking I had turned a new leaf. And now, now you and they are chewing on the stale, rotten remnants of my old moviemaking style… and you must love it. You must swallow it down and ask for another.

“You loved Vol. 1 for the action; there is virtually none here. You loved the anime, the kickin’ soundtrack, the lone heroine slicing her way through hordes of enemies in search of her prey. Now, all you have is memories and an empty second half of a movie. For Kill Bill Vol. 2 is a black void of content. I just felt like talking for a couple hours. I like talking. I think the height of cinema is when one character hijacks the camera and the audience to ramble on some long-winded monologue that’s supposed to convince you — out of its impressive length — that there was something substantial in there. I’m the type of guy who will call your answering machine and fill up as much tape as I can before the phone company disconnects me.

“Oh, I’ll give you hope, even now. I’ll serve you up a small little sliver of creativity and entertainment, just to remind you of how slick Vol. 1 was, then force you to endure minute after minute of agonizing nothingness. For the first time in my life, I, Quentin Percy Tarantino, will use an editing machine — on my fight sequences. Those will be only thirty seconds long, tops, and then we’re right back to stylish posing and nonsensical speeches. This is the fate I leave you with, not death, no, not death… but being buried alive under the weight of my haughty ego.”

He rubs the smoking stub out on the middle of your desk, and gets up to leave. Before he disappears to live high off of his reputation for another five years, not having to work, Quentin throws one last blurb your way.

“And don’t bother trying to fight it. They’ll never believe your word over mine. They’ve already accepted my infallibility; they would reject your righteous reason.”

Kyle’s rating: Just like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, baby!

Kyle’s review: Kill Bill Vol. 2 is mighty long and might windy, and that wind blows hot air. Just go with me here, because if there’s one thing I know, it’s hot air (see: all my prior reviews).

It’s a lot like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. For you, dear reader, this whole parable will no doubt be more applicable to another band/artist, such as China Forbes or The Jazz Butcher. But this is my black-and-white flashback, and it’s go-time.

It’s 1995. I’m a humble junior in high school, with dirty hair and no fashion sense. I have friends in every social realm there is, but for the moment I’m hanging out with band geeks, all the choir students and faculty, and my fellow set crew members. That’s right, it’s late spring and the music department is putting on their musical: The King and I. I decided I wanted to join the Thespians club and this is how I made my bones: helping design and build the set. For some reason that refuses to pop up despite all my efforts, I also ended being the curtain guy. This was scary at first but soon lead to increased popularity, stronger arm muscles, and my very own headset and radio to follow Mr. McCormack’s cues (there were five radio headsets total, so this was a big deal and a huge responsibility).

See how this appears to rambling everywhere and nowhere in particular that would interest you? Kill Bill Vol. 2 is sorta like that. If you’ve seen Vol. 1 you’re probably expecting more slash-‘n’-spurt swordplay and cool and bloody vignettes introducing the characters. Keep on expecting, because you get a whole lotta talk, a few tight spots, and a ratio of like one second of action/violence for every one minute of actual running time.

The upside is that you get to know the characters and you get a glimpse and feel for the world they inhabit. You see what’s important to them, what they value above all other things (including their own lives), and you get a sense of the honor that exists (or doesn’t) among these characters. You may be able to empathize with them, perhaps you won’t. Vol. 2 can be an enjoyable experience regardless, or it could be boring and too talky for your tastes. That’s fine as well. It’s certainly different than Vol. 1, so be prepared for intense background and a new set of rules for the Bride to follow where swords don’t match up quite so favorably to shotguns, closed quarters, and fast reflexes. You’ve been warned.

Back to my past and my point: the month or so I spent working on that musical my junior year was one of the best in my life. The four of us on set crew bonded over dirty jokes, subliminal images painted into the backdrop, and the discovery of our mutual for The A-Team, especially the theme song. I got to know all my choir/chorale friends a whole lot better, as I was privy to the serious enthusiasm they put forth into music that didn’t always overlap into their other studies. But the big deal was me, Scotty, Shamus, and Brett becoming this incredible set crew that had our own huddle before each performance and floated into Thespian memory. Never surrender, never forget, never let your paint dry out.

The whole experience was akin to entering a world I had never really acknowledged before in my high school, and finding out that I was not only welcome but also a potentially vital member of the whole shebang if I wanted to be, and could live up to that potential. That’s how it was for the Bride, as we see in flashbacks. Bill sees potential in her, and gives her the chance to live up to. She does, obviously, and in spades. So for a while it’s great. Then something changes everything, and that world shatters into intense violence (mostly seen in Vol. 1) and recriminations and explanations (mostly seen in Vol. 2).

My own transcendent and ultimately ephemeral world I’ve described here didn’t pop quite as violently as the Bride’s. Half of us were seniors and half were juniors, and the next year I had acting roles in both dramas and due to time constraints helped sell concessions for the musical. I burned all the popcorn. That wasn’t as cool a memory. But Kill Bill Vol. 2 didn’t dislodge the popcorn memory; it spoke to my own experiences as an important and valuable member of something great. Building on that, it helped me understand the pain, sorrow, and anger the Bride feels when her own experience went so bad and she felt betrayed by her fellow colleagues. It used the power of my past to enrich my enjoyment. And it did it while dredging up other pop culture landmark scattered across my psyche and made me feel happy, content, and a part of the world as it exists and as we all like to imaginatively perceive it. Thanks, Quentin Tarantino!

See, Vol. 2 is also like deciding to watch the first couple minutes of that new television show LAX and smiling in pleasure at the creative decision to have “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO as the theme song, set to fairly cool-looking title credits that end in a Wes Anderson-inspired final credits shot. It’s cool stuff that never goes out of style, utilized in a brand new context that does something innovative while retaining the inherent coolness of the retro artifact(s) without being exploitive or pandering. This fusion isn’t successfully attained often. I’m not sure how successful Kill Bill Vol. 1 is, more due to my unfamiliarity with the stuff QT is paying homage to there. But Kill Bill Vol. 2 brought a smile to my face and kept it there for 136 minutes, and I’m betting your facial muscles will get a workout for at least half that running time if you give Vol. 2 a chance.

Again: if you dug the heck out of Vol. 1 you might be disappointed, but if you’re like me and you’ve been waiting for Tarantino to live up to the “great artist” moniker he’s been toting for too long without seeming to produce something of great substance, Vol. 2 might seal the deal on your own Tarantino appreciation, for good or bad. But it’s certainly worth a look.

Oh yeah, I totally forgot! A friend’s friend, Brandon, told me at a party The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were cool. I didn’t believe him and didn’t trust him enough to find out for sure. But after spending that magic month getting to know him better as a friend (he was in the chorus and played a palace guard in The King and I), I realized his musical tastes were frighteningly close to my own. So I gave the Bosstones a listen. They’re great! Thanks, Brandon!

Didja notice?

  • Pai Mei means “White Eyebrow”
  • The character Pai Mei appears in several Shaw Bros Kung Fu films from the ’70s and ’80s
  • References to Reservoir Dogs
  • Lots of ugly bare feet
  • The large wooden flute played by Bill ( David Carradine) actually is the exact same flute that David Carradine plays as Kwai Chang Caine in “Kung Fu”
  • The license plate on Bill’s Jeep is THX1169, an apparent tongue-in-cheek homage to director George Lucas.
  • After the fight between Elle and the Bride, Elle thrashes around on the floor kicking and screaming in a manner reminiscent of Pris from Blade Runner, also played by Daryl Hannah.
  • Elle Driver wears the same outfit that Uma Thurman wears in Pulp Fiction and Pam Grief wore in Jackie Brown

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