movie film review | chris tookey

Kill Bill: Vol 2

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  Kill Bill: Vol 2 Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
7.11 /10
Uma Thurman, Daryl Hannah (pictured left), Michael Madsen (second right)
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Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino

Released: 2004
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 136

Tarantino exposes his psyche, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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The second half of Quentin Tarantino’s revenge drama is less gory and action-packed than the first - you’ll have to work out for yourself whether that’s a commendation or a criticism. Volume 2 is certainly a lot less fun, and contains so many long dialogue scenes and pretentious monologues that it seems at times as if he’s trying (for some inexplicable reason) to pay homage to The Matrix: Reloaded.

Thanks to Tarantino’s visual flair, there are extraordinary moments. The catfight in a trailer between Uma Thurman and Darryl Hannah is superbly staged, and Quentin still knows how to frame a shot and use music to establish mood. But the emptiness of Kill Bill is such that when Tarantino does a visually striking cut from wide open mountain spaces to a huge close-up of a character’s eyes, the eyes tell us nothing about the character. It’s just a vacuous exercise in directorial control.

Some sequences are grotesquely over-extended, and one – a stop-off towards the end when our vengeful heroine encounters a Hispanic pimp – contributes nothing whatsoever. The first Kill Bill could usefully have lost 20 minutes; the second is overlong by at least 45.

Whereas the first episode was a cheerfully trashy gorefest – Charlie’s Angels as directed by Genghis Khan – this is a more sombre effort, essentially a version of how 70s kung fu movies from Hong Kong might have looked, had they been directed by an unholy triumvirate of spaghetti western director Sergio Leone, Hitler-apologist Leni Reifenstahl and superman-theorist Friedrich Nietsche.

The morality of the two films is expressed by Bill (David Carradine), our heroine’s enemy, teacher and an incorrigible windbag: normal notions of Right and Wrong are suspended when a hero has to survive. This is a tenable philosophy under life-or-death circumstances, but a much less attractive one by which to live under normal conditions. It is, in fact, the selfishly corrupt code of many who operate under, say, African dictatorships or in the more shark-infested regions of Hollywood.

The two films together could easily be entitled Triumph of the Will, had Leni Riefenstahl not taken the title first. Tarantino is not only visibly excited by the exercise of power – both parts of Kill Bill are full of would-be iconic, posed images of brutality – he also gets aroused by notions of submission, especially by younger women to older men.

The usual idiots have hailed Thurman’s heroine as a feminist icon, but look closer and you’ll notice a woman who’s frightened and abused in all sorts of photogenic ways, and achieves her revenge only because she makes herself subservient to men, whether they be Bill or her kung-fu trainer.

The underlying sado-masochism of Kill Bill, posing as a kind of “cool”, is its second most sinister aspect. The worst is its fascism, re-engineered for the 21st century to cash in on American neuroses. The film argues, often with visceral power, that where someone has been foully betrayed and attacked (such as America was on 9/11), wholesale slaughter and destruction are justified without thought of proportionality or consequences for the innocent.

Indeed, the use of lethal technology (swords in Tarantino’s films, superior air power in American foreign policy, or plastic explosives if you happen to belong to Hamas) is really, really cool. If people lose their limbs and lives as a result, that’s funny. And they shouldn’t have got in the way.

This is the philosophy that some people will argue underpins George Bush’s foreign policy. I would prefer not to believe that, but it certainly underpins mass terrorism and suicide bombing, which is why Kill Bill is so uniquely repellent.

Tarantino does more than glamorise violence here; he makes a quasi-religion out of it. One reason why his heroine bonds at the end with her little girl (don’t worry – I’m not spoiling any surprises here) is that she can recognise in her the killer that she is herself – the end of the film reeks of this kind of corrupt, egomaniacal sentimentality. Kill Bill is more than an empty exercise in camp; it’s sick, twisted and pernicious - a hideous monument to one director’s worship of power, violence and himself.

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