MOVIES BY MATT: Kill Bill Volume 2

Quentin Tarantino is infamous for being demanding, narcissistic and downright weird as both a director and a human being; he has a fetish for Uma Thurman in his films; he is single-handedly responsible for resurrecting John Travolta with Pulp Fiction. Now, Tarantino has defined “pulp fiction” with his fourth film, Kill Bill. Exciting guy, huh? Bill, chopped into two “volumes” by Tarantino and his editors because its original length stretched past four hours, now fits neatly into two fantastic films that define brilliant directing. In Bill, the Bride (Thurman), left for dead at her wedding rehearsal, recovers from a four year coma, and strives for vengeance against the other members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, of which she used to be top dog. The second installment focuses on developing the plot, revealing much of the back story and chasing the three remaining members of the squad: Budd (Michael Madsen), Elle (Daryl Hannah) and finally, Bill (David Carradine). The film is a visual feast, as Tarantino’s commanding personality shines through every last shot. Colors pop off the screen during scenes of high emotional and physical intensity, as screaming oranges, yellows, reds and purples seem to set the screen on fire. But Tarantino maintains his control and is willing to throttle back on the visual cacophony, balancing the bright with the gorgeous simplicity of black and white, layering the film with visual metaphors that enrapture the audience from the opening credits to the closing frame. The choreography of the fight scenes, used less often in Vol. 2, is brilliant, climaxing in a ballet deathmatch with guns and samurai swords. Each fight is so perfectly wrought by actors, director, and camera itself that the audience cannot help but remain awestruck, eyes unblinking, for each scene. The violence is gratuitous but stylistic and cartoonish, not brutally realistic like the violence in Reservoir Dogs or The Passion. For each fight in which blood is shed and the audience stares silently amazed at Tarantino’s command of the shot, there are also moments of quiet intensity. A campfire scene with light dancing around the actors’ worn faces and a scene of colorless rice-eating add deep emotion to the film and accentuate the films questions about the morality of taking lives, the ethics of revenge, and the choices of motherhood and of matrimony. Heart-wrenching images like these balance the loud excitement of the fighting with such ease that the film, from beginning to end, never hits a cinematographic rut, and thus captivates without pause or misstep. The virtuoso direction of Mr. Tarantino outshines all other aspects of the movie. The plot is complex and interesting but not fully realized—the back story is well-weaved into the film, but the script never fulfills the expectations set by our awe at the directing, and so the viewer may never acknowledge the drama of the film beyond a few purposefully tender scenes. Microcosms of affection for the plot are fleeting but succeed in keeping the film afloat and allow Tarantino enough leeway to work his magic. So too does the acting, with solid work from Madsen and Hannah in well-realized roles of cynicism and intense loathing for one another and for the bride. Each, like the plot, holds the audience only long enough for the heart to slow its pounding before Tarantino takes us in a completely different visual direction, and each actor should be commended for realizing not only Tarantino’s brilliance, but also their supporting role. Thurman is even stronger as a vengeful, tender, hurt bride and does well to capture the intensity of emotions involved with her ordeal while, like Hannah and Madsen, remaining subordinate to Tarantino’s camerawork. Thurman’s physical agility, mental acuity, and plain old cojones must be applauded as well, for she takes a big risk with this film and pulls off a difficult role not compeletly defined by the script. Carradine is the best of all, his craggy face and killer’s mind masking a human attempting to cope with the fateful decisions he has made and as a man who knows that he will meet toe-to-toe with the woman that he betrayed. His philosophizing, while at times overdone by the script, is accurately and acutely played; it contributes much of the strong emotions behind the film that make it a cinematic creation of the first order. Kill Bill (both volumes) is a must-see film and a brilliant show for Mr. Tarantino. Overall Grade: 6/6-