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Kill Bill Volume Two

Scooby snacks for Q & U

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If I had to pick one person to survive the nuclear holocaust, it would be Quentin Tarantino. Not because he deserves it, but because he would keep things interesting. He is a self-proclaimed genius, a glorified super-geek who deals in gorgeous obscurities, intentional beauty and "isms." He also digs death. But the gore he employs is graceful somehow, and the effect is more matter-of-fact than dramatic. Words, music, perspiration—everything is deliberate, and Kill Bill Volume Two is the ultimate collection of Tarantino's signature tricks.

Despite seamless filming, the two halves of Kill Bill split like a ready peach. Volume One is an action-packed salute to Anime, Spaghetti Westerns and Shaw Brothers Kung-Fu. Volume Two follows suit, but it is much more involved. It begins with a black and white flashback to the wedding rehearsal of Arlene Plympton/The Bride/The Black Mamba/Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman), a former assassin who hopes to escape her sordid past with a deadbeat in El Paso, Texas. But Bill, her old lover and mentor, shows up to "overreact."

Played ever so coolly by David Carradine (of Kung Fu: The Legend Continues), Bill is one of the most twisted characters I've seen since The Usual Suspects. He is a sadistic pimp both despised and worshipped by his brood, and Carradine does an amazing job of spring-loading every slow, parched syllable. Like Tarantino, he works in subtlety, training his gestures to ensure the resonance of every glance.

Especially in the flashback sequences between Bill and Beatrix, the "love story" aspect of Kill Bill is clear. She is the only woman ever to touch this untouchable man, and it starts to make sense why he would put a shotgun to her head and fire. This is just one of the ways Volume Two makes you go back and dissect Volume One. Given richer details, you can't help but piece together the "whole story," a grand black comedy that does service not only to Tarantino and Thurman's creativity but also to the skills of shelved superstars like Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah and especially Carradine. Madsen was known only for his convincing thuggery in a smattering of mobster flicks, Hannah never did anything impressive (besides having the longest legs ever), and Carradine was regular fodder for late night comedy. But given such an outlandish, thoughtful script, they finally come into their own.

While the first volume was short on character development and long on swash-buckle, the second finds a wicked balance. The fight sequences are tight and explosive, and so is the dialogue. In true Tarantino style, key scenes are drawn out to an almost painful degree. For example, the audience is made to endure Beatrix's live burial from start to finish, watching every nail go in and hearing the dirt hit the coffin piece by piece. Mainstream media is all about constant flow such that we don't really absorb or experience anything. Tarantino spits in the face of such over-stimulation, at first forcing and then privileging his audience with palpable suffering in "real time."

Kill Bill Volume Two is something I would love to watch again. Not in a few years or even a few months—right now. It is the classic definition of good cinema: highly entertaining, thought provoking and as ideological as it is aesthetic. Tarantino labels it "the movie of his geek dreams," and like a good cartoon, you don't even have to catch all the allusions to enjoy it.

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