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Kill Bill Volume 2
Reviewed by Carla Freccero
Aired 5/11 and 5/12, 2004

Part two of Quentin Tarantino's action-revenge pastiche flick, Kill Bill, features not the kung fu/martial arts fighting extravaganzas, but the Western this time. Replete with film clips, ponderously delivered lines, outrageous music, and heroic-ironic melodrama, the series of revenge killings by our intrepid heroine, The Bride, aka Black Mamba (Uma Thurman), builds toward the final husband-wife showdown.

We learn that Bill (David Carradine), apprised of his ex's steady progress down her hit list, prepares his own traps to capture and kill his one-time true love. This time he nearly succeeds . . . again. More over-the-top killing and a brief and anomalous interlude-where we learn about Uma's difficult apprenticeship with the best of martial arts teachers and the special technique we surmise she learned there, since she is, after all, Bill's most perfect student. This interlude's important too because it supplies motivation and audience empathy for Uma's committed hatred of Elle Driver, played by Darryl Hannah, who-were she not so unutterably evil-just might garner excessive sympathy from moviegoers who remember the tragic Priss from Blade Runner. Indeed, for me anyway, it was something of a relief to find that the catfight (as it is misogynistically called when two women rumble)-which is really where the action seems to be, at least for Tarantino in these two movies (remember Lucy Liu in the last one?)-is motivated not so much by jealous rivalry as by loyalty to and hatred for a great teacher. Alas, of course, the girls are still at it over a man. Michael Madsen also does a great job as Budd, a guy who totally understands Black Mamba's reasons but is willing to kill her anyway--and finds himself in a heart-to-heart with Elle. He's the best he's been since Thelma and Louise, and I'm sure we're supposed to remember it as we watch him sadly and dustily get fired from his job and hang out in his southwestern trailer.

The strangest thing about the movie-which doesn't seem to have the energy, verve, color and novelty of the first-is the meeting of the two adversary-dopplegangers for the final face-off. Frankly, it would have made more sense to me if this were a father-daughter team, since the thickness of the blood between them is very very familial. I was reminded in fact of the father-daughter duet in Dogville. But then, how to explain Uma's lovestricken condition but nevertheless steely resolve to put an end to Bill's life? This movie shies away from the great filmic father-daughter incest narratives, such as Aguirre or the Wrath of God and Chinatown. Instead, I'm afraid, it indulges in a bit of barely humorous old-hat stuff about maternal ferocity. The movie is still a good time, though, for the skill of the pastiche and the colorful humor-cum-violence of the plot.

Looking for trouble at the movies, for KUSP and the film gang, this is Carla Freccero.