(Insomnia Theater) Kill Bill: Volume 2 Review

Insomniacs Unite for: Kill Bill vol. 2
Review by Bret Dorman

Last week we tackled the summit of Mount Everest together and took on the Crazy 88. If Kill Bill vol. 1 (and my review of it) is about having the courage to take on an near impossible task, Kill Bill vol. 2 (and my review of it) is about having the dedication to see what you’ve started all the way to its finish.

I’ve been doing Midnight Movie reviews for a long time, two years now. No one asked me to start, no one has pleaded with me to keep going, and no one is giving me opportunities for the future. I keep writing them because that’s what I do. Sure, I’d like to make it more than just a hobby, possibly branch out into the programming/promotion world of this niche world, but until then I can’t stop. If I do give up, then I wouldn’t be doing the thing I love the most. So I just keep going.

Is it unreasonable of me to expect someone to just give me a theater, an outlet, and an audience to start showing all the greatest movies with the greatest crowds? Sure. I’m never going to find someone looking specifically for a Midnight Movie Programmer/Promoter. I want to create a positive atmosphere for a very specific set of people and find it slightly frustrating that not everyone ever is rushing to its inherent awesomeness.

Basically, I’m digging a grave for myself.

But if there is one thing I learned from Tarantino and the character of The Bride, its that the fun of finding yourself at the bottom of a grave is fighting your way out.

Red DVD cover

Red DVD cover

The Story: The Bride roared and rampaged her way through the first two on her Death List Five, but the toughest opponents are yet to come. She gets outsmarted by a hillbilly deadbeat, confronts a merciless nemesis eye to eye, and visits a father figure of her baby daddy to find the biggest surprise of all. That and we get to see exactly how much she can endure when she goes to train with Pai Mei (Gordon Liu), perhaps the craziest of them all. Also, “gargantuan” isn’t used nearly enough in everyday conversations.

Tarantino is known for “reviving careers.” Really, this is just the result of what Tarantino is really after. He wants to make the best performance possible. The characters are created in a way where they are written as if you have seen them in other movies and already love them. Each person has a unique twist on some facet of pop culture and speaks in a way that they are confident about it. Then, the characters are tweaked by the actors themselves. Every pause, every emphasis on a word or syllable, all the subtext, and the sense of style are all thoroughly rehearsed and discussed to filter the characters down into cinematic vessels of coolness. Tarantino makes you miss actors/actresses like David Carridine and Daryl Hannah. He makes you wish everything Michael Madsen or Lucy Liu did was on par with his work. He shines the spotlight on cult favorites or crowd pleasers like Michael Parks and Gordon Liu. Whenever someone works on a Tarantino flick, not only will their clips end up on a highlight reel, but their work will become career defining. And a lot of the actors he works with are already known for being someone else.

Not only does Tarantino cast actors in redefining roles where he utilizes them to their fullest, he does the same with songs. Whether he is repurposing old (Spaghetti) Western songs from Ennio Morricone and Luis Bacalav or getting his pals Robert Rodriguez and (The) RZA to help out all the songs are used in just the right spots for maximum effect. But even as Tarantino marries sight and sound so stylistically that the very essence of cinematic storytelling becomes more than just an exercise in “wouldn’t this be cool?”; let’s not forget who the real star of Kill Bill is:

Shadow Sparring

Shadow Sparring

Uma Thurman.

Not only does Thurman work with Tarantino to deliver the best work of her career, she throws herself into the role so physically, mentally, and spiritually she rises to the ranks of Clint Eastwood’s “Blondie” as an icon who lives and breathes every time you watch these movies. The silhouetted shots of her practicing her arts next to Gordon Liu perfectly outline her tall, thin, gangly body as she turns it into a deadly weapon. At no point does Uma thurman look bad in these films, even as she wakes up from a coma or escapes her ‘Texas Funeral.’ Her relationship with Tarantino in Kill Bill is symbiotic, without one the other could not exist. And she deserves a standing ovation for getting you to laugh, cry, feel tense and afraid all at the same time (see: the scene where she finally confronts Bill to find an unexpected surprise on her end that we already know about).

The Bride Poster

The Bride Poster

While Volume 1 focuses on the violent action, Volume 2 settles in to let the characters talk a bit before there is more gore (personally I find The Bride Vs Elle fight a bit more satisfying than the Crazy 88, but I’m also in love with Elle… so I’m a bit biased). Even as characters tell oral stories of other characters by a campfire, this time an anime segment is replaced with a flute, its easy to get wrapped up in the story within the story. I can’t help but get a chuckle every time I see Elle’s “Black Mamba” speech written out in such impecable handwriting in her little notebook. Tarantino doesn’t write dialogue for people, he writes them for characters. And the fact that his characters know this makes them super cool.

Poster that's got it ALL

Poster that’s got it ALL

The moment of transcendence in Kill Bill comes not as The Bride is killing anyone in her path to vengeance, but in her struggle to stay alive. A lot of times a movie will work itself into a really cool dilemma and we the audience may secretly know our hero could never die (especially halfway through!) but we clutch out armrests and scoot up to the edge of the seat anyway. Why? Because it’s fun to see HOW they will get out of their predicament. Unfortunately most of the time the character just lucks their way out or someone saves them or some deus ex machina like device is used by the screenwriter and all the tension is immediately zapped out of the story. Not Tarantino. He buries a character alive, then has the faith in us, the audience, that we will trust him as he devotes an entire chapter to our hero learning a technique to set her free, even if we don’t know that’s the purpose of the chapter right away. The Bride doesn’t luck her way out, she wills her way out. The scene starts triumphant and ends ridiculously, but by then the emotion of the situation should be enough to make us feel glad we aren’t back where the scene started.

As I did in my review for Volume 1, allow me to just gush for a bit. Over the tiny stuff. I love how Bill says “Ah-so…” I love how Budd kicks The Brides sword and it sticks into the barrel. I love Rocket’s expression on her face after she tells Budd to clean the toilet and he says he’ll get right on it. I love how The Bride says “Kill Bill” with such umph at the end of her opening monologue that it takes the silly title and really makes you feel it. I love any and every little eye twitch that Elle makes, whether exaggerated or subtle, because I love Elle. I love all those minute moments and many many more in the film.

Why This Movie Is Perfect For Insomniacs: Every year hundreds of films come out, but as the years pass, only a certain few live on. How do we pick these movies? Simple. We show them in the midnight hour and the true fans come out to show their love. I’ll be there every week, because for me, my dedication to movies can not be contained to one special movie I make the trip out to Bow-Tie at Reston Town Center for during the Midnight Hour. My dedication is not singular. It is plural. I love Midnight Movies. Period. And I hope to see more of those regulars out there who feel the same.

"Pretty Cool Huh" Yes you are Elle, yes. you. are.

“Pretty Cool Huh” Yes you are Elle, yes. you. are.

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