Best of DVDs...with M.V. Moorhead

Kill Bill Vol. 2:

“Revenge,” according to the Klingons (or the French, or somebody), “is a dish best served cold.” According to Quentin Tarantino, it’s apparently also a dish best served over numerous courses—too many to fit into a single sitting, so he had to split his pop-Jacobean genre-looting extravaganza Kill Bill into two feature-length volumes.

‘The second half of this weird, overstuffed jackdaw’s nest of a movie has arrived in theaters and, like last year’s Volume One, it’s a blast.

Happily, though, it isn’t just more of the same. The tone is calmer in the second half of the story, the action less headlong, the emotion more subtle.

The revenger is Uma Thurman, a dish in her own right, as The Bride, a samurai-sword-wielding former professional assassin.

The object of her revenge is her former boss and lover Bill (David Carradine), who, with her former colleagues, rather unforgivably disrupted her wedding rehearsal, and left her in a four-year coma. Having already awakened and dispatched several of his minions—Vivica A. Fox and Lucy Liu, for instance—in Volume I, she still has a few undercard revenges to take care of before her climactic confrontation with Bill.

First, there’s Bill’s slobby, trailer-dwelling brother Budd, well played by Michael Madsen. Then there’s the sneering killer Elle, played by eye-patch-adorned Daryl Hannah in what may be the best performance she’s ever given.

Both of them, glimpsed only briefly in Vol. I, prove formidably treacherous enemies.

Much of the action this time takes place in America, and the style is therefore less like Tarantino’s beloved Hong Kong martial arts movies. There are episodes and images that employ archetypical horror and noir gambits, but the dominant flavor here is that of the spaghetti Western.

There’s a splendid exception, however—a long flashback sequence in which we see The Bride being trained by a nimble, ill-tempered old Chinese master (Gordon Liu), and in which Tarantino gets to show, once again, with what hilarious accuracy and energy he can imitate the surrealism of Hong Kong action flicks.

The best surprise of Kill Bill Vol. II comes in the finale, the showdown between The Bride and Bill. After all the flashy bravura of Tarantino’s direction up to this point, he seems to have the excellent instinct to keep it visually simple and low-key, and to give Thurman and Carradine some emotional complexity to dig into. The two actors don’t miss the chance to make this connection—they generate a disquieting sense of intimacy. The aesthetic irony of the movie is that just when the time finally arrives to kill Bill, that’s when the character, and his pursuer, come fully to life.

The DVD—As with Volume I, this disc is best as a rental, not a purchase, unless you’re a Tarantino completist.

The extras are routine: Another "making of" featurette, a deleted scene, some footage of the premiere. It’s not hard to guess that two-volume set, much more fully loaded, will be forthcoming.

Kill Bill, Vol. 2 is rated R. It’s not quite as violent as Vol. I, but it’s still most definitely not for the kiddies.