Kill Bill: Vol. 2 is in almost every way just as good as Vol. 1. It’s different, assuredly, but that doesn’t make it better or worse. In terms of quality, the two films are just about on par with one another. But their differences will likely determine which one you actually enjoy more. Vol. 1 is far more focused on action — on entertaining you visually. Vol. 2 tells a deeper story with richer characters, and expands on what was only touched upon in Vol. 1.
For some people, this change will be an unlikely one. Vol. 1 was definitely engaging thanks to its almost non-stop action sequences. I mean, it had one that lasted approximately 30 minutes — and that’s how it concluded. It was a film that was rarely, if ever, boring. Vol. 2 has far fewer and shorter action scenes, but is more plot oriented. We get to learn more about The Bride (Uma Thurman), even learning her name mid-way through. We get to find out more of her motivation, as well as why Bill (David Carradine, who actually appears in a lot of the film this time) tried to kill her. If you felt that you needed more plot and explanation after watching Vol. 1, this is the film you need to see.
This time around, The Bride only has three characters to check off her hit list. Bill is the final one she wants to get to, but she also wants to eliminate Bill’s brother, Budd (Michael Madsen) and another one of Bill’s henchmen, Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah). Kill Bill: Vol. 2 chronicles the finale to her story, after we only got 2/5 of the way through last time around. Oh, and for those of you who did watch Vol. 1 and were really curious about the cliffhanger it left you — that’s ignored for the majority of the movie, not even touched upon. But when it comes up, it comes up in a big way.
I mentioned, and frankly emphasized fairly heavily, that Vol. 2 deals with plot more than action. However, for me at least, that didn’t make it any less entertaining or engaging. In fact, having proper motivations and being given an actual back-story gives us reason to care for the plight of The Bride. But that doesn’t mean that we want to see her go in and massacre everyone. The villains of the picture are all interesting in their own right, with some of them, despite doing terrible things, being sympathetic enough to make us want to see them live to see the film through to the end.
The primary example of this comes from Bill himself, who, despite us being told and shown that he’s a terrible person, has redeeming factors that allow him to gain our favor. This is also true from Michael Madsen’s character Budd, who is charming and provides a slight comic relief role for the film. This is partly due to the way he is played, but also in the way he is written.
If there’s one major improvement in Vol. 2, it’s that Quentin Tarantino’s trademark dialogue makes an appearance after being noticeable absent from Vol. 1. The dialogue that the characters have with one another are sometimes cheesy, but other times insightful and snappy, even when nothing important or relevant is being discussed. There’s one scene near the end where characters talk about squishing a goldfish with the bottom of one’s foot. Not only is this conversation incredibly interesting to listen to, it sounds like one that could be talked about by real people. Anyone could have this conversation, and that’s what I like most about Tarantino’s dialogue.
Other times, like in a few scenes where we witness The Bride learning to become the fighter that she is now, everything is really cheesy. From the camera quickly zooming right in on a character’s face to a character stroking his beard at every opportunity, it’s incredibly cheesy and makes the film lose some of the serious nature that encompasses most of its runtime. It’s effective in paying homage to similar films, but it takes away something from the end product. It’s the same when Tarantino decides to switch randomly to black and white, as it is distracting — not a technique that enhances anything for the audience.
The action scenes, what little of them there is, are actually very well-made and inventive. The one right near the end that lasts maybe 30 seconds tops is so beautiful in its execution, and given the context it takes place in, is nearly perfect. It’s weird, but I wasn’t missing any of the long action scenes from the previous film, because the dialogue was just as, if not more, thrilling than they were. There’s only one action scene that lasts longer than a minute, and it was actually one of the more boring moments of the film, even though I was entertained by it.
Just like with Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol. 2 is hampered almost solely by its director’s self-indulgence. It’s a different film than its predecessor, with the focus on plot and characters rather than action, but it draws you in just as well. Characters, just with simple conversations, can captivate an audience. If nothing else, Vol. 2 will make you want to revisit the first part, as you’ll now have a better context for the events that took place beforehand. As a standalone film, it’s great. As a two-piece series, they are excellent.