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The epic conclusion of the “Kill Bill” saga is a slow character reveal that still ignites with passionate revenge twenty years later.

Kill Bill: Volume 2

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WARNING: SIGNIFICANT PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD

Quentin Tarantino’s emotional saga in Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004) continues to tell an extraordinary story of Beatrix Kiddo’s (Uma Thurman) resilience and redemption while invoking all the love notes of the 1970s genres.

Returning to the ugliest crime, The Bride lies hyperventilating while shot in the head.  Then, our favorite protagonist is driving in a convertible in the Noir style of black and white, reacquainting us with the tale of “a roaring rampage of revenge.”

Flashback to Beatrix retiring her life to “Arlene,” the pregnant bride-to-be, wearing her dress for the wedding rehearsal. She is to marry the unsuspecting and love-smitten record store owner, Tommy (VFX Artist Christopher Allen Nelson.) Bill (David Carradine) has located her outside the chapel.

It continues in black and white like an epic spaghetti western by Cinematographer Robert Richardson.

With the editing talents of Sally Menke, her cuts illustrate Beatrix and Bill’s mirrored soul reflection of each other. This connection is one too passionate to get over in both love and hate.

Kill-Bill-Vol.-2

After only seeing Bill’s menacing presence through his phone calls and hands in Volume 1, we now see him fully and witness the extent of his complete shift in his torn humanity towards Beatrix.

The part of Bill was originally written for Warren Beatty, who declined. Like Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson, David Carradine has an instinctual and keen understanding of Tarantino’s dialog, often flowing like poetry.

In 2006, he wrote The Kill Bill Diary: The Making of a Tarantino Classic as Seen Through the Eyes of a Screen Legend — an entertaining and insightful look at his Kill Bill experiences and friendship with Tarantino.

Tender and calculating, Carradine is flawless and born for the role. 

David Carradine

I truly believe in the last kiss Beatrix gives to Bill that he has given his blessing to her new life. Posing as her father, he hangs back while the Deadly Viper Squad approaches the practicing ceremony in action. We see the flashes from the guns.

We don’t see the horror, but we hear it, making it even more grimacing and unimaginable.  The event is forever known as the Massacre at Two Pines Chapel in El Paso, Texas.

Bill makes amends with his younger brother, Budd (Michael Madsen), to save him from Beatrix’s wrath.

Budd has always lived in the shadow of Bill, disappointing, and admits to pawning the Hattori Hanzo sword. Budd is an alcoholic, now living in a broken-down single-wide home in the Texan desert and working as a defeated bouncer at a strip joint. Larry Bishop is quite charismatic as his condescending boss.

Think twice about Budd being the weakest link; he has the cleverest storyline, suppressing his killer nature instincts when necessary and living low to surprise.

When Beatrix appears at night to kill Budd, he stuns her with his gun, and helps bury the bounded bride into a coffin with only a flashlight. He also negotiates with Elle (Daryl Hannah) about Beatrix’s death and her Hanzo-made sword.

Fighting for her life while freshly buried, Beatrix returns to her warrior training with Pai Mei (Gordon Liu), Bill’s former abusive Kung Fu master.

I love how that time is shot in a darker tone, like the 1970s martial arts films. Liu is hysterical in his satisfactory smiles and stroking of his long beard like an exclamation mark to Beatrix’s physical pain, like the master prototypes of older Kung Fu films.

Exercising the hardest movements in a masterful montage with RZA’s light musical composition, Thurman and stunt woman Zoe Bell have my respect.

Kill Bill: Volume 2

Hardened by her master but made resilient by his grooming, Beatrix breaks out of the wooden grave box through the ground dirt to air against the blazing orchestration of Ennio Morricone’s L’Arena.

Walking to a diner with dirt blowing everywhere, sitting down, and asking for a glass of water, Tarantino knows when to bring in a comical tone following great moments of intensity.

Elle arrives at Budd’s place with a suitcase full of cash, and a venomous black mamba snake, that attacks and kills Budd while Beatrix approaches the mobile home. Elle and Beatrix have a short but epic standoff. The closeups and showdown between the two as arch-nemesis assassins feel more like comic book frames.

Avenging Pai Mei after Elle reveals poisoning him to his death, Beatrix takes an eye for another eye, leaving Elle bleeding and screaming blind. The snake hisses but pulls back as Beatrix leaves, even a deadly creature can respect a warrior’s justified battle.

Beatrix travels to Acuña, Mexico, to find Esteban (Michael Parks), a brothel owner, mobster, and “father figure” for Bill. She hopes for information about Bill’s whereabouts. As she enters Bill’s resort villa, Beatrix finds her daughter, B.B. (Perla Haney-Jardine), now four years old, playing shootout with Bill.

“Oh, B.B.!” With silent tears running down her cheeks, she plays dead alone at Bill’s request.

Watching Thurman’s ranges throughout Volume 2 is such an emotional release, and the shock, relief, and embrace of a child are such a release.

Kill Bill: Volume 2

Bill narrates his daughter’s actions and the questions of her mother. He tells the story of how she killed her own goldfish, Emilio, a metaphor for his regrets for hurting Beatrix.  Putting B.B. to bed, mother and daughter watch Shogun Assassin, a far cry from Little Mermaid.  

Malcolm McLaren’s slowed-down mix “About Her,” from The Zombie’s “She’s Not There” and Bessie Smith’s “St. Lewis Blues,” is laid out perfectly. It sums up the dilemma of Beatrix and Bill’s child together — a symbol of both love and betrayal — and the much-anticipated moment of revenge. Tarantino employs existing songs with great intention.

Facing off with swords on the patio, the outdoor evening is reminiscent of the Shaw Brothers battles under the stars.

Beatrix utilizes the “Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique” on Bill. With a few apologies and forgiveness, the karmic warriors reach closure as Bill drops to his death. Holding her daughter, she flees the resort as “the lioness has been reunited with her cub.”

For many years, the concept of a third sequel was entertained but thought to be scrapped in favor of his long-touted final theatrical film, The Movie Critic. However, in an interesting twist, Tarantino recently announced the cancellation of The Movie Critic. Maybe that means Volume 3 is still a possibility for his tenth and final film.

Thurman’s complex emotions of Beatrix Kiddo (aka Black Mamba, aka The Bride) still move me after all these years.

Tarantino once said that the making of Kill Bill was equivalent to climbing his mountain, and I agree. In fact, twenty years later, Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair is still his Mt. Everest.  

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