by Jesse Walker
19, 2004 | This is a fanboy review. I probably should
have sent it to Ain't It Cool News. "Remember Kill Bill
Vol. 1?" it would begin. "Remember how it was great? Well, Vol.
2 is fucking great." Better yet, I could send that directly
to Mr. Tarantino. It sounds like something he might say.
But instead I'll begin by mentioning that I really didn't care
for that other art-house martial-arts tribute, Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Dragon. Yes, I know: it had some lively fight scenes,
and I enjoyed watching them; or, at least, I enjoyed watching the
ones that weren't shot in the dark. (Between Crouching Tiger
and Hulk, Ang Lee seems intent on proving himself the master
of invisible action.) But separating those scenes were long portentous
speeches about Friendship, and Loyalty, and other Things That Feel
Like They Begin With Capital Letters. The entire movie was infused
with this intense seriousness, as though the filmmakers were a bit
embarrassed to be making a chop-socky flick and wanted to ennoble
everything with a little Deep Sentiment.
Unfortunately, there's a difference between talking about friendship
or loyalty and actually saying anything about it. The chief effect,
at least for those of us yawning in the back row, was to show up
just how ridiculous the whole movie really was.
Kill Bill is exactly the opposite. It doesn't beg us to
take it seriously; it begs us to kick back and have fun. It embraces
the ridiculousness, it exults in the ridiculousness, it never goes
long without reminding you of the ridiculousness. The first installment
begins with an epigraph from Star Trek -- from Star Trek!
-- and climaxes with a woman single-handedly fighting a squadron
called "the Crazy 88." I sat there chuckling, and I got more and
more engrossed, and by the end I realized that somehow, while I
wasn't looking, something had crept into this deeply silly movie.
Soaking in all that delightful pop-culture trash, it had absorbed
a certain grandeur.
Vol. 2 goes further. It has the same homages and in-jokes
that the first film displayed, the same loving irony-without-detachment.
It also has the classic Quentin Tarantino elements that seemed to
be missing from the earlier picture: the sharp, pop-savvy dialogue
(best represented here when the title character offers his take
on Superman); the wonderfully skewed variations on classic movie
setups (best represented here when Tarantino takes the oldest action
cliché -- the standoff -- and throws a home pregnancy test into
the mix). The picture radically shifts styles, it plays with primal
phobias, and it establishes itself as a solid piece of genre filmmaking.
But it also deepens our sense of these characters, treats this
objectively silly material with respect, and somehow made me take
it seriously. Not by loudly proclaiming its seriousness, a la Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but by earning my respect; by letting
me get attached to these pulp characters with their truth serums,
their kung fu superpowers, and their deeply human attachments and
resentments and revealing little lies. Kill Bill Vol. 2 includes
a throwaway shot of an inscription on a sword that packs more heartbreak
than anything in Crouching Tiger or -- as long as I'm picking
on long-winded epics -- in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings.
There's more that I could say, but I'm not going to say it, because
I don't want to give away any substantial plot points. This is,
like I said, a fanboy review. I'm writing it because I want you
to watch this movie, and I wouldn't dream of taking away any of
the fun. So: Four stars. Two thumbs up. Insert superlative here.
Just see the damn movie.
Walker is managing editor of Reason and author of Rebels
on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America (NYU