Netflix UK film review: Kill Bill Volume 2
Ivan Radford | On 17, Jun 2018Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen
Watch Kill Bill Vol. 1 online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“Are you saying that I’m a superhero?” asks The Bride in Kill Bill Vol. 2. It’s a question that comes right at the finish of Quentin Tarantino’s two-part, rip-roaring revenge flick. If that positions the whole four-hour epic as an origins story, though, Vol. 2’s strength, and weakness, is that it climaxes without the blockbuster action you expect: this is a personal journey that gets smaller and more personal the longer it goes on.
The good news is that this gives Uma Thurman more chance to delve into her character and find fresh depths beneath her violent surface. The bad news is that it also gives Quentin Tarantino time to write more dramatic speeches that take even longer to move things forward. An indulgent screenwriter, Tarantino’s plotting has always been better at dialogue than heart – it’s perhaps no coincidence that his best film, Jackie Brown, takes its narrative from an Elmore Leonard novel. His love of a lengthy exchange, though, saps the pace from Kill Bill’s closing chapters, especially after the thrills and spills of the non-stop Vol. 1.
There are still three people left to wipe out, with Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah), Budd (Michael Madsen) and Bill (David Carradine) just waiting to be crossed off The Bride’s list. That sets the stage for a standout set piece between Elle and The Bride, which sees them demolish a trailer to get to each other like rival extras in a Levi advert. But for all the visceral immediacy of the low-fi, practical punch-ups, Madsen’s downbeat presence emerges as the defining tone of the whole film, as he gradually wastes away in the desert, estranged from everyone in the Deadly Viper Gang.
It’s telling that the best moment in the movie comes from a flashback to The Bride’s training with the mythical, and extravagantly bearded, Master Pei Mei – a sign that not only is the main narrative starting to lose momentum but also that the inserted sequence is entirely at odds with the surrounding movie. Such bold diversions felt at home in Vol. 1, a bravura mash-up of influences and tones. Vol. 2, though, styles itself after a Sergio Leone Western, and Tarantino’s flourishes only distract from the mood and extend the runtime – a victim, perhaps, of the decision to separate the two halves in the first place.
By the time The Bride comes face to face with Bill, Carradine’s presence is suitably fearsome without being overstated, and their reunion comes with a sting in the tale that gets you right in the chest. But as moving as Thurman’s performance is, it’s hard for Vol. 2 not to feel like an anticlimax overall – making things more personal is the right decision, it’s just made by the wrong filmmaker.
Kill Bill Vol. 2 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.