Reviewed by Lee Medcalf

DirectorQuentin Tarantino

Starring:  Uma Thurman, John Carradine, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah

Ok, so, pop quiz, hot shot!

Who has the most important job on a film crew? The Director? Perhaps… The Effects Guys? Never! The Writer? Well, yeah, but not the answer I was looking for… The Actors? Duh!

”Who, then?” I hear you cry!

Simple… The Editor…

The Editor: that guy who watches the film in its raw state and takes it and watches it over and over and over and over, all the time honing and refining the work to fit both the director’s vision, but also to sharpen it, and ultimately make it enjoyable for audiences…

Recently movie studios have diminished the editor’s role by extending movies where there was clearly no need, and indulging the Director to a point of excess… and why’s that? Simple… Money… an extra long film may not necessarily make more at the cinema, considering that with extra length comes less shows per day, but break a film down in to palatable chunks, with the bits that should have been cut out, and then you have two films, two release dates, two sets of hype and, in the end, two sets of cash registers going KerChing!
Its a worrying trend: one that, thanks to the appalling Matrix sequels actually making money, has perpetuated around the studios as the next big trend, and it’s kept the armchair cynics shaking their heads sagely into their copies of Empire… The Matrix sequels were overlong and pompous to the extreme. Wise heads around pub tables everywhere now accept that within the two crappy sequels was perhaps the nugget of one reasonable film, and all agreed that this cynical new extended-movie-cut-in-two strategy didn't work.
But in the end the back-to-back sequel nay-Sayers had their cynical thoughts cast aside when Quentin Tarantino announced that Kill Bill, his fourth film, was to get the similar treatment…

The simple story of the Bride (Uma Thurman) and her wreaking of revenge upon her ex-assassin team-mates at first had people wondering how or why it would be set up as two films, until they saw it.

The first part of Kill Bill may not have been a perfect film, but for Tarantino fans, and fans of 70's Hong Kong action flicks, it delivered, and pushed all the right buttons, moving at a pace, and with a flair, that was hard to deny. By the close of the film, with The Bride's revenge list growing shorter, and yet with two hours having flown by, it was easy to see that if we were given more of the same, as The Bride worked her way through to Bill himself, that this back-to-back sequel filming thing may actually have some merit.

But does it?

The film opens with what is essentially a recap of the reason for the Bride’s revenge, before returning to the present and following her quest to find Bill, unaware that Bill knows she is coming. Between The Bride and her ultimate goal, though, stands Budd (Michael Madsen) and one-eyed witch queen Ellie Driver (Daryl Hannah). Within minutes it is quite apparent that the movie is very different from its predecessor. Gone is Tarantino’s snappy pacing, replaced with lingering "homage" shots emulating Sergio Leone and any number of Hong Kong action movies. Gone, too, is Tarantino’s quick-fire characterisation. This isn’t a bad thing, at any other time, or in any other film, but here it seems dramatically out of place when all of the characters in Kill Bill – Volume 1, The Bride included, were little more than 2D action characters with some cursory motivation. Now we have Tarantino trying to flesh out characters where none is required, and in some places doing it for no other reason than to ultimately fill time for a character that will be dead in less than twenty minutes. Without giving too much away, a perfect example is a ten-minute sequence dealing with Budd (Michael Madsen), loosing his job as a bouncer in a strip bar in the middle of nowhere. It does nothing to enhance the character, it doesn’t especially elicit any particularly fine performances, nor does it do anything to help you empathise with Budd. It simply pads out the film, and in any other movie the scene would have been dumped, and the writer / Director would have simply described Budd as a looser by having one character simply ask him "So, you lost your job at the titty bar, then?"

This is something that happens again and again all the way through Kill Bill – Volume 2. There are moments that, even as a member of the audience, you can see where our friend the Editor is so desperately needed, to give the film a full-on kick up the arse to get it into gear.

This isn’t to say that the film is totally irredeemable, far from it. There are moments of brilliance, which inspire hope that now we’re going to be getting somewhere, The Bride’s flashback to training with an ancient master, which gives obvious and enthusiastic nods to movies such as Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master, is superb, but these moments are few and far between.

Even some of the snappy, highly-polished, media savvy, retro dialogue that Tarantino normally excels at sounds flat and dull, almost as if he was away that day and the Producer got someone who made a Reservoir Dogs rip-off film to write the script… Bill's monologue about Superman is a fine example of this: where it should have been a sharp critique on how we all hide behind disguises in one form or another, and how we shouldn't deny to ourselves who we are, it ends up sounding like an old man reminiscing about how Flash Gordon was so much better than "that film with the gay gold robot and the girl with the buns on her head".

Ultimately the result is one of profound disappointment, Kill Bill - Volume 2 could have so easily upped the stakes, or even settled for giving simply more of the same, but in the end it proved all the back-to-back sequel nay-Sayers right again. It ends up leaving you feeling that all you've really done is sat through the deleted scenes of a Kill Bill Special Edition DVD.

Kill Bill – Volume 2 is an opportunity wasted, and it will diminish Kill Bill - Volume 1, and leave you with the feeling that if our friend the Editor had managed to get in there and have his way then Volume 2 would have been reduced down to simply being an extra forty-five minutes on the end of Volume 1.

You can discuss this film in this thread over at Roobarb's DVD Forum.











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