In Kill Bill Volume 1 director Quentin Tarantino presented audiences with a wildly original and completely crazy exploitational revenge film that introduced them to Uma Thurman’s vengeance crazed assassin The Bride. And the resulting film had them hooked! But when the carnage ended with Kill Bill Volume 1 The Bride’s story was not over yet, and there were more names to wipe off her kill list in Kill Bill Volume 2.
The Bride (Uma Thurman) continues her quest of vengeance against her former boss and lover Bill (David Carradine), the reclusive bouncer Budd (Michael Madsen), and the treacherous, one-eyed Elle (Darryl Hannah).
Building off of the exploitational atmosphere that he introduced to audiences in Kill Bill Volume 1, Kill Bill Volume 2 picked up with The Bride looking to settle the score with Michael Madsen’s Bud, the shit-kicking brother of Bill, Daryl Hannah’s pathological psycho Elle Driver, and her ultimate nemesis, in the form of revered performer David Carradine, who portrayed Bill. While the first film fell into the martial arts genre, Tarantino worked to push the narrative into the outreaches of the exploitation genre here. With everything from the redneck movie to Italian Giallo, a dash of Shaw Brothers action and a heartwarming domestic drama, all of this was contained in Kill Bill Volume 2 and this mismatch of styles helps to deliver home a powerful narrative.
At the end of Kill Bill Volume 1, three names remained on The Bride’s Kill List and Bill’s younger brother Budd was the first person she hunted down. Played by Tarantino favourite Michael Madsen, Budd was a redneck shitbird of the first order. Behind his greasy hair and alcohol-laden posture hid a dangerous and formidable brute who was more than happy to put The Bride in her place six feet under. Madsen had a sick glee to his performance and he complements Tarantino’s dialogue perfectly. Also on the list was The Bride’s mortal enemy Elle Driver and she was one mean spirited bitch! Played to villainous perfection by Daryl Hannah, Elle was a bad girl who liked being bad and her seminal duel with The Bride in Budd’s trailer park home is a grim and gritty brawl that stays with you. Not to mention its shocking conclusion which gives new meaning to ‘an eye for an eye’.
But if Kill Bill Volume 2 has a star that steals the entire film then it is unequivocally David Carradine as the titular Bill. This master assassin and former lover of The Bride is packed full of wild west charisma and Eastern wisdom. Carradine is an absolute scene-stealer as Bill and when the camera is upon him you can’t look away. This cult actor of cinema and TV absolutely gave Tarantino his movie and you completely buy into how damn cool he is on screen. Along with the cool factor is his place as a ruthless killer in the film’s narrative and Carradine’s sly performance helps to communicate this to the film’s audience with ease. The famed actor also shared great chemistry with Uma Thurman and you brought into these character’s tragic tale of love and hate even more because of it. Carradine gave the perfect performance as Bill, and the film is all the better because of his involvement.
While Kill Bill Volume 1 was an out and out action film, Volume 2 moves at a different pace. Not only does it keep audiences on their toes, but it also affords them the freedom to interpret the film’s narrative and draw out the events of the past that shape this story’s present. Part of this is due to Tarantino’s masterful blending of genres within the exploitation genre. But this is also in part to the director’s maturing craft as a storyteller. With Kill Bill Volume 2 you feel that Tarantino is exploring different parts of himself as an artist up on the screen here, and the result is something both interesting and different.
A massive part of the story that finally reveals itself to the audience in the third act (and which was eluded to previously at the conclusion of Kill Bill Volume 1) is that The Bride’s daughter B.B. is still alive. And their reunion has plenty of significance to the film’s narrative. This story of a mother and daughter reuniting is something that many would not assume to ever be included within the structure of a Tarantino film. But it fits perfectly here. Thurman’s performance is heightened during these scenes as her own emotions as a mother come into their own up on the big screen, and Tarantino uses them to his advantage. Chaos and action aside, this is the most crucial and compelling part to the entire Kill Bill saga, and its inclusion certainly stays with you.
But everything in Kill Bill Volume 2 leads to the final confrontation between The Bride aka Beatrix Kiddo and Bill and this exchange between Thurman and Carradine is the stuff that cinema legend is made of. Featuring a beautifully delivered monologue about true nature and intent from Carradine, and exploding in a quick hack and slash exchange of Hattori Hanzo katana’s, Kill Bill Volume 2 is brought to an end in dramatic and shocking fashion. It’s an end that eludes to cult martial arts film Five Fingers of Death, and with image and music working together in unison The Bride finally gets her revenge!
Kill Bill is an incredibly important part of director Quentin Tarantino’s list of works and it is essential viewing for anyone who loves cinema. Blending performance, genre, action and emotion for a film that grabs you and does not let go. It’s an example of Tarantino doing what he loves and loving every second of it.