Kill Bill Vol.2 more or less picks up where we left off with the first film. After such an explosive orgy of violent action I was unprepared for this monologue ridden ultimately tiresome effort. This is a very different film from Vol.1 and not nearly as good. Right from the opening sequence, which features Uma talking directly to the camera and filling us in on the situation, I suspected I wasn´t going to like it.
Uma has to hunt down the remaining Viper Squad who left her for dead back in a wedding chapel three years ago. She intends to kill each of them before finishing the leader Bill. Having dispensed with O-Ren Ishii and Vernita Green in Vol.1 she only has to finish Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah), Budd (Michael Madsen) and Bill himself (David Carradine). However each is a deadly assassin and so she does not have an easy job ahead of her.
In this film Tarantino really indulges himself and there is a great deal more dialogue. The typical Tarantino stuff such as the stupid monologue about Superman is not so subtly woven into the script. The characters constantly embark on long speeches which are too slick to be real, Bill in particular talks for ages and ages and I found many of these scenes really boring. I think the reason is the lack of character depth, the first film established a comic book style which also included two dimensional characters. Going from epic action to long conversations with characters we don´t know anything about and so have no empathy with just doesn´t work.
The action sequences which do feature in this film are on a par with the first effort and great to watch. Gordon Liu gets a meatier role here as martial arts master Pai Mei and he is fantastic and very funny although the character is perhaps overly familiar to any martial arts fan. Although I liked the sequence with Uma learning from Pai Mei it was entirely ripped off from a variety of older martial arts films and it has been done better in numerous Jackie Chan flicks (Drunken Master, Master with Cracked Fingers).
The references continue throughout but many of the ideas come from the cheesier end of martial arts such as the exploding heart technique. The film feels disjointed and this is not helped by the confused procession of bizarre music and sound effects. While some of the direction seems heavy handed and confused this is in part because Tarantino seems to be so desperate to reference all these great films that influenced him. There is also room for some genuinely great shots of his own devising and I especially liked the scene which showed the Viper Squad entering the church with the camera backing out of the door and into the sky to rest looking down on the scene before fading out. It was a beautiful shot and unusually understated compared with the rest of the film.
The storyline bobs and weaves all over the place with some nice moments and some not so great twists. Eventually we build to an underwhelming climax which left me feeling very unsatisfied. The pacing of the film is a lot slower than Vol.1 and I´m unsure how the two would work together as one film but I think you´d need to re-edit it. The explosive action seems to decline as the film progresses and it jars with the slow ending.
Once again the acting is very good. I think Michael Madsen is quite untalented and I have never seen him act convincingly except when he is a psycho in a Tarantino movie. It is partly the posturing and the fact that Tarantino gives him two dimensional characters but he was really good in this. Darryl Hannah is convincing as Elle Driver but we don´t find out much about her and she comes across as a comic book villain. Carradine was fine as Bill, I didn´t like the character but he acted it well enough. Uma Thurman was up to her usual high standard but once again she was not a developed character rather a personification of revenge.
Ultimately after the promise of the first film I felt deflated after seeing this. Thinking over the two films you have to wonder if Tarantino tried to pack in too much, the storyline is not that complex but is told in a complicated way and there are far too many references which could be criticised as blatant plagiarism. In comparison with the majority of movies released both Kill Bill films are far better and well worth the admission price but don´t expect anything thought provoking this is pure style over substance.