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Kill Bill Volume Two (2004)
Writer and director: Quentin Tarantino

review by Ian Shutter
Spoiler alert!
The second part of Tarantino's fourth movie has more leisurely-paced dialogues, greater character development and plot intrigues, and rather less insanely sadistic mayhem than its action-packed predecessor. This last is not a bad thing, or a criticism of the work at all, as Kill Bill Vol.1 and Vol.2 boasts, arguably, the most 'empowering' female antihero character in Hollywood cinema for many a year. Her grandiosely cinematic story of overcoming tragic defeat, and seemingly certain death, to exact an almost biblical vengeance upon her attackers and enemies is told here in elegiac, yet frequently magnificent, style. I see no reason to find fault with the director's attention-grabbing technique of giving us the action first and the explanations later´┐Ż
   Unlike the amnesiac Samantha of Renny Harlin's The Long Kiss Goodnight (1997), in which the protagonist's former identity as assassin Charlene is revealed when her past catches up with her - enabling suburban mother to transform herself into a ruthless killer; the Bride, alias Black Mamba, whose real name turns out to be Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman), of Kill Bill follows a sympathetic if reverse trajectory. It's an emotional makeover from vengeful hit-woman to ready-made single parent. The past defiance of her ex-boss and ex-lover Bill, alias Snake Charmer (David Carradine), who's also the father of her child, when she finally decides to quit the murder business and settle down to raise a family, returns to haunt our heroine's multi-chaptered present in poetic black and white flashbacks.
   We eventually get to meet Bill's brother Budd, alias Sidewinder (Michael Madsen), a failed cowboy now working as a strip-club bouncer and living in a trailer home in the desert. Out of all the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad foursome, he comes closest to halting the merciless rampage of onetime bridal Ms Kiddo's killing spree. There's a welcome return, too, for eye-patched but sexy slayer Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), who betrays one of the death squad (saving Kiddo the trouble of full-quota retribution) before she comes face-to-face with her adversary. One of the best and grittiest battling babes' catfights ever filmed ends with actress Hannah reprising those screaming death throes from Blade Runner (1982), thrashing wildly about on the floor after being injured in an impromptu duel involving samurai swords.
   Among the frustrating indignities and brushes with unforgiving fate endured by our heroine is her premature burial. Screen size reduction from the familiar and expansive scope format to a squarer TV ratio during the cemetery episode, guarantees there's a visual element of claustrophobia to her coffin trap sequence. Her numerous physical assaults, later request for suitable weaponry, and her half-dead trek through endless wasteland to 'settle the score' recalls semi-mystical Hannie Caulder (1972), an underrated vehicle for Raquel Welch. All the trappings of contemporary warriors' code-of-ethics polluted by treachery, overreaction, lingering regret, and quicksilver elaborations on the uber-feminist basics of Burt Kennedy's quietly disreputable horse opera, aside, that's pretty much what Kill Bill is, folks - Hannie Caulder revamped, if not remade, with varied allusions to become infinitely larger than life.
   This is well-conceived visual flamboyance and melodramatic excess, skilfully threaded into a richly allusive, poker-faced narrative fragmented by design into whimsical irreverence, blackly humorous wit and a shrewdly imaginative, portentous resonance. Subgenre cinephile extraordinaire, Quentin Tarantino (nowadays referred to by fanboys as QT; by fan-girls as 'Cutie' geddit?), has here crafted his most stunning work yet. It's a movie of impressive style and thematic substance, making up for what it obviously lacks in true originality and pure imagination with some astutely recycled motifs and moods from US westerns, European film noir, and Asian fantasy fu. If you don't like this, what the hell's wrong with you?
Kill Bill Vol.2

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