I do not tolerate violence well and so as you can imagine, I was hesitant to see Kill Bill: Volume I. But after a good and intelligent friend pleaded with me to see it, I built up my intestinal fortitude and bravely marched into the theater. When the screen opened up to Uma Thurman’s bloody face, I cringed and my stomach churned. As Bill shoots the pregnant Bride in the head, I gasped. But as the Bride wakes from her coma to the realization of her empty womb and shattered skull, I was sucked into her violent and emotional world and rooted for the Bride throughout the film. I saw Kill Bill: Volume I four times. As you can imagine, I have waited for the opening of Kill Bill: Volume II like a kid waits for Channukah, and when the eight chapters were unwrapped before my widened eyes, my Channukah hopes were fulfilled.
Kill Bill: Volume II opens up to a monologue by the Bride as she drives to meet Bill, which as we know, she wants to kill. She tells us that she has already killed the remaining members of the Deadly Viper Assassination squad, Budd aka Sidewinder and Elle Driver aka California Mountain Snake. Before the Bride reaps her final revenge, she reminds us how this bloody rampage first started, the massacre of her wedding party. In this flashback, we finally get to meet the sexy and evil Bill, who is beautifully played by David Carradine. We are privy to the deep emotions that Bill and the Bride share. We realize that they were not only lovers, but they were at one point, truly in love. And as the massacre draws near, we find out why the squad was sent to kill the Bride. The crime she committed was breaking Bill’s heart. The chapter is amazingly shot in subtle black and white and superbly acted. And the homage to the Western genre is a fine nuance to a carefully crafted chapter.
The movie jumps again in time to the Bride’s revenge attempt on Budd, a memorable character. In the Bride’s first failing, she is bested by Budd and he buries her alive. As we know, the Bride escapes the burial, but that does not lessen the psychological effects as the viewers chew their lips in anticipation of her escape. The burial and escape is one of the most psychologically thrilling that I have scene in recent memory.
The last member of the squad on the Bride’s kill list is Elle Driver aka California Mountain Snake. Someone said that this fight scene is the stuff of male fantasy with the two six foot blondes wrestling. But I would say that it is more the Western version of the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon match up of Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi. Both of these battles are among the most well choreographed and well acted female fight scenes in film history.
And finally we come to the film’s denouement; The Bride and Bill meet again. The Bride achieves her goal in a relatively short fight. The real content of this chapter is the search for emotional closure for a very complicated relationship. The finale is short on blood, but the emotion flows freely.
The Kill Bill volumes were originally supposed to be one film and one can might say that they should have been kept that way. If they would have been one film, the duality of the cartoon violence in Volume I and the visceral emotion of Volume II would have been appreciated more. The combined film could have been one of the greatest American movies ever made. Still, Volume I and Volume II are Tarantino at his finest. He has masterfully written and directed. Thurman, who is forever luminous in this role, has created the most engrossing film heroine of my generation. The movies do fall short of a cinematic masterpiece, but in the action genre, Kill Bill: Volume I and Volume II are among the best.