Satisfying: Uma's the man!
Some say Uma Thurman was robbed by not getting an Oscar nomination for Kill Bill, Vol. 1. Not really, but she'll be robbed if she doesn't get one for Kill Bill, Vol. 2. This superior continuation of Quentin Tarantino's "roaring rampage of revenge" gives Thurman a chance to play happy, sad, maternal, sadistic, dramatic, melodramatic, tough, tender, athletic, deadly... She loves, she hates– the same person– and does more of everything she did in Vol. 1 except martial arts, of which she does just enough.
Tarantino assumes you've seen Vol. 1 and doesn't even start with a recap. That's saved for the closing credits, which will make more sense when the two parts are reunited. The Bride (Thurman) who dispatched two of the five people on her kill list (and dozens of others) in Vol. 1, has crossed off two more and is on her way to finish the job: "When I arrive at my destination I'm gonna kill Bill," she promises.
In the meantime, we get more of the backstory, flashing back to the "Massacre at Two Pines," when Bill and his death squad wiped out The Bride's wedding party, including her unborn child, and left her in a coma that lasted four years. Among other things we learn the wedding musician was Rufus (Samuel L. Jackson in a sly cameo), a key unknown figure in R&B history. "He's the man," declares the Rev. Bo Svenson.
Bill (David Carradine) shows up at the wedding rehearsal as a surprise guest before the shooting starts. "I'm the man," he says as he asks The Bride to reconsider her options– being a fabulously wealthy, jet-set hit-woman or a wife and mother working in her husband's El Paso record store.
We know how that will play out, and we know The Man is neither Bill nor Rufus, but Quentin or Uma. They go on to prove it over the next two hours as we check in with Bill's brother Budd (Michael Madsen), "a bouncer in a titty bar" who's treated like crap by his boss. He rejects Bill's warning saying, "That woman deserves her revenge and we deserve to die. Then again, so does she."
Budd is more resourceful than he appears and is soon on his way to becoming a millionaire for killing The Bride and making her suffer. Elle (Daryl Hannah) comes to make the payoff, and since she's next on the list we can expect a massive blonde-on-blonde showdown, probably the nastiest fight ever staged in a trailer. (But why does the snake stay so quiet?)
We don't always get what we expect in Kill Bill, Vol. 2. In fact, knowing what to expect leaves us more susceptible to surprise than in Vol. 1 when we didn't.
We get to feel what it's like being buried alive, with dirt filling in over our heads, then flash back to The Bride's training under Pai Mei (Gordon Liu), a sadistic master with a flowing white beard and the creator of the "five-point palm exploding heart technique."
An old whoremaster (a second role for Michael Parks) directs The Bride, whose real name has been revealed by now, to Bill for the final, "Face to Face" confrontation. "Before this tale of bloody revenge reaches its climax," Bill has time to expound on comic superheroes and "the perfect image of life and death: a fish flapping on the carpet and a fish not flapping on the carpet."
Some will find the slow, deliberate conversations too long, but that's the point. Tarantino plays with us so we never know when fast, brutal action will erupt. His genre-blending style might be summarized as "spaghetti Eastern," with a lot of music pulled from Morricone soundtracks.
There are also references to Hong Kong classics and everything from a Roy Rogers Western to Elke Sommer's forgettable The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz.
You can expect to have a few wicked dreams of your own after seeing Kill Bill, Vol. 2, Tarantino's most satisfying film since Pulp Fiction.