I hate Quentin Tarantino. His geeky approach to cinema leaves me cold; Reservoir Dogs was largely stolen from City on Fire; and Pulp Fiction is among the most-overrated films of the 90's, in my opinion. He can write well, sure - but it's no coincidence that the films of his I like (True Romance, From Dusk Till Dawn) are those where another director has been at the helm, and able to rein in the self-indulgent excesses. However, I loved part one of Kill Bill. I'm a big fan of action heroines, and this was the closest Hollywood has yet come to capturing the wild, unfettered spirit to be found in the Hong Kong movies made by the likes of Michelle Yeoh. Neither Lara Croft nor Charlie's Angels would last two minutes with The Bride. And Tarantino's tendency to let his character's mouths run off with them, to the detriment of the film, was mercifully notable by its absence. Then there was the finale at the House of Blue Leaves. How could he possibly top that?
Answer: he doesn't even try. Volume 2 is a different animal altogether; while its predecessor paid homage to kung-fu and samurai films, this one has more in common with spaghetti Westerns, building to a one-on-one climax where The Bride (whose real name we discover to be [BLEEP]) faces Bill (David Carradine), exactly as we've been expecting from virtually the first frame. And, unfortunately, it's back to being extremely verbose; when Bill starts going on about Superman, I was cringing, and was haunted by visions of Tarantino's smug face thinking, "Look how cool this is!" Ditto for Bill playing a flute, a clunky reference to Carradine's role in Kung Fu.
There are some truly wonderful sequences, however - particularly the middle, which slides effortlessly from The Bride (Uma Thurman) taking a shotgun blast to the chest, through her burial alive, into a flashback sequence of her martial arts training (her master is played by Gordon Liu, veteran of many HK flicks), and on to her battle with Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), a savage brawl of epic intensity. However, for every one of these, there's another that begs to be cut - or removed entirely - such as the scene dealing with the day job of Bud (Michael Madsen). When compared to the thoughtless dreck of most Hollywood action films, it's nice to see one with scope and emotional impact. But with a body count of precisely one, as action flicks go, it's a definite letdown. With judicious editing, this could have been a 40 minute addition to the end of its predecessor - and the overall impact would probably have been much greater that way. 7/10
Jim McLennan (August 2004)
Bill: Vol. 1
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
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