When we last left The Bride (Uma Thurman) in Kill Bill Vol. 1 (now on video and DVD), she had exacted bloody vengeance on two of her former assassin partners (not to mention a seemingly endless horde of Yakuza gang members) on her quest to take out her ex-boss/ex-lover, Bill (David Carradine). Think of this as Sergio Leone (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly) directing a film with kung fu action about Charlie's Angels—except that they're not really the good guys, there are five of them, one of them is a man, and the protagonist wants to kill Charlie for destroying her life. Leave it to Quentin Tarantino to combine the exploitation B-movies of the '70s with spaghetti westerns, kung fu, and pop-culture ridden dialogue that plays like modern day Shakespeare.

Uma Thurman returns as The Bride

Uma Thurman returns as The Bride

Kill Bill Vol. 2 picks up where Vol. 1 left off, beginning with that campy movie trailer of The Bride in a convertible, telling the audience that she will have her revenge. From there, the film delivers the final chapters of the story, beginning with a recount of The Bride's wedding day massacre—well, wedding rehearsal massacre anyway. We also see a flashback of her intense training in martial arts under the "cruel tutelage" of Kung Fu master Pai Mei (Gordon Liu). And oh yes, we see her confront the two remaining assassins (Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah) before getting the chance to kill Bill.

How exactly does one go about reviewing a film like this for a Christian website? Some Christians will watch anything Hollywood has to offer, while others avoid movies and theaters like the plague. And there are plenty between those extremes. Suffice to say that if you're offended by bad language, by less-than-scrupulous characters, and/or by scenes of strong violence—regardless of whether it's hyper-realistic like The Passion or comic book-styled like The Matrix—this film is definitely not for you.

Bill (David Carradine) gets trigger-happy

Bill (David Carradine) gets trigger-happy

Actually, the biggest surprise about Kill Bill Vol. 2 is that it's not the bloody orgy of violence that marked Vol. 1. Sure, it has its moments—one fight sequence ends in an especially grotesque manner, and you're not likely to find a more horrifying snake attack in film any time soon. But for the most part, the action is stylized kung fu, no worse than your average superhero movie or Lord of the Rings battle sequence. The aforementioned wedding rehearsal massacre isn't even shown on screen.

Stranger yet, Vol. 2 is a love story at heart, albeit love gone wrong. This is an unexpectedly talky film, and therein lies its charm. Director, writer, and producer Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs) is a master storyteller, and I wholeheartedly agree with critics who have noted that Tarantino absolutely loves his characters. Complex in motivation, vividly imagined, and richly versed, every one of them gives a worthy monologue to help flesh them out and remain unforgettable. The exchanges between Bill and The Bride are terrific, speaking volumes of a twisted romance that has since run its course with equal doses of sweetness, melancholy, and menace. There's an additional level of sweetness to the story as The Bride gradually uncovers the truth about her mysterious motherhood.

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Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver

Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver

These monologues give the characters a level of depth rarely seen in films today. The extended sequences of dialogue demonstrate that even villains like Bill and Budd (Madsden) have their charm, making their evils all the more shocking and giving the film's action and deaths more resonance. I found myself hanging on Bill's every word as he retold the legend of Pai Mei to a younger Bride before sending her off to study with him; it wouldn't be at all surprising if David Carradine earns a Best Supporting Actor nomination. And the beard-twirling Pai Mei is likely to endure as one of the most beloved characters in recent cinematic history—chauvinistic, cranky, yet charming, he makes Master Yoda look like a sissy.

Every character is given a chance to shine, no matter how small the role—from the minister and his wife at the wedding chapel to Bill's suave surrogate father Esteban (played by Michael Parks like a Hispanic Jack Nicholson). And that's why Vol. 2 shines that much more than Vol. 1. It relies on the strength of its storytelling instead of extreme shock value, as the first largely did. Both movies do succeed (in different ways), adding up to a satisfying three-and-a-half hour experience. Those wishing to avoid the extreme violence and nastiness of the first film can still enjoy the second by itself, though you'll lose some character development in the process.

Tarantino uses more than writing to tell his tale effectively. There are visual shots that are framed like film noir or graphic novels, often allowing the images to communicate at least as much as words. He often switches between black & white, color, and faded color to place scenes in chronological context. There's also a brilliant scene in which The Bride is buried alive, filmed in darkness from her perspective with nothing but sound to envelope the audience—it's a chilling and suspenseful experience.

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Pai Mei (Gordon Liu) makes Yoda look like a sissy

Pai Mei (Gordon Liu) makes Yoda look like a sissy

Of course there's also the action as choreographed by the great Gordon Liu, far more satisfying than that found in the last two Matrix movies. Some of the stunts will blow your mind because they're so fast and unexpected. On top of all that, Kill Bill Vol. 2 is consistently funny. With past films, Tarantino had a tendency to make audiences laugh at sick and uncomfortable things. Here the humor is rather dark, but generally more appropriate—akin to Monty Python in some cases. Again, Pai Mei steals the show in his crazed-but-wise belittlements. There's also Budd's conversation with his boss at the roadhouse bar, in which we can relate to both sides of the argument. Tarantino is also increasingly comfortable working with kids, and there's a scene between parent and child that is absolutely precious in the way it captures both shyness and playfulness.

Still, it is typical Tarantino in many ways, and Christians must decide for themselves if the violence, language, and overall subject matter are tolerable or offensive. Much like the classic spaghetti Westerns and kung fu flicks, Tarantino paradoxically manages to glorify and condemn the violence of his characters. It's entertaining, but not edifying. Does a movie have to be both? If so, I'd recommend skipping it—although Kill Bill Vol. 2 is undeniably enjoyable filmmaking, unpredictable in its storytelling and wholly original in its characterizations.

Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. What does the Bible have to say about vengeance and justice? What's the difference between the two? Is The Bride justified in her quest for vengeance? How else might she have sought justice?

  2. There's a scene where a child shows an understanding of the difference between pretend and "for real" violence. Can we make such a distinction in the real world? Does pretend violence (movies, video games) beget real violence?

  3. In both films, The Bride is portrayed as the model of focus and perseverance, taking seemingly infinitesimal steps towards her goal. What drives those qualities? What are our goals and how do we similarly persevere?

  4. There's a brilliant monologue about comic book superheroes and their alter egos. Do we live similar lives of duality, in our faith, our work life, our home life? If so, which is the real you? Which are you more inclined to?

  5. What causes The Bride to retire from her life as an assassin? Metaphorically speaking (not spiritually), do you think she's on the way to redeeming her past at the end of the film?
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The Family Corner

For parents to consider

Kill Bill Vol. 2 is unquestionably an R film and definitely not suitable for children. But in contrast with the first film, the violence is pretty sparse. Most of it is comic-book kung fu action, though it does get pretty extreme with one of the most vicious snake attacks ever staged on film and an especially gross ending to one of the key fights. There's more than a fair share of offensive language. Regarding the "sexual content," I suppose the MPAA is referring to a discussion about prostitution in one scene; I'd be more concerned with the brief drug use shown earlier in the film.

What Other Critics Are Saying
compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet
from Film Forum, 04/22/04

The Bride (Uma Thurman) is back in Kill Bill Vol. 2, this week's box office champ. In this episode, we learn her name and a whole lot more. We learn why her fiancé and her wedding party were slaughtered by a killer named Bill (David Carradine). We learn what happened to the Bride's daughter, who was revealed to be alive at the end of Vol. 1. We also meet her trainer, an indignant, impish martial arts master named Pai Mei (Gordon Liu), and we learn the extent to which she has mastered murderous maneuvers. These deadly talents then assist her in her desperate quest to find and destroy her malevolent nemesis.

While the film certainly serves up the graphic violence you'd expect from a Quentin Tarantino film, it also delivers far more character development, dialogue, and storytelling than Vol. 1. This is catching many critics by surprise, impressing some of them, discouraging others. It is worth noting that the Bride is fighting in order to break free from "the life" of a criminal, just as Samuel L. Jackson's character did in Pulp Fiction. But her methods for doing so are not as level-headed. She's on "a roaring rampage of revenge."

Mainstream critics, who condemned The Passion for its onscreen violence, suddenly seem to have decided that there's nothing wrong with R-rated brutality whatsoever. Most of them give KB2 high praise. Those who object primarily complain about Tarantino's preoccupation with referencing other movies.

The majority of religious press critics, on the other hand, continue to reject Tarantino's work due to the excessive violence.

In doing so, some of them fall short of giving Tarantino credit for his remarkable achievements—the stellar performances he draws from his actors, the surprising moral conflict that is revealed at the heart of the story in this episode, and the technical achievement of his filmmaking. These movies are indulgent and flawed, but they should be recognized as a mix of strengths and weaknesses. (My full review is at Looking Closer.)

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Russ Breimeier (Christianity Today Movies) says, "If you're offended by bad language, by less-than-scrupulous characters, and/or by scenes of strong violence—regardless of whether it's hyper-realistic like The Passion or comic book-styled like The Matrix—this film is definitely not for you." But he adds, "Kill Bill Vol. 2 is undeniably enjoyable filmmaking, unpredictable in its storytelling and wholly original in its characterizations."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says, "I have to admit, I liked Vol. 2 much more than its predecessor simply because of the focus on the characters instead of on the ways they killed each other." He does confirm that "vengeance remains the central theme of the film."

He finds a spiritual message in the film, however: "Believing is the most important key there is to achieving success. Rarely do we see success if we don't believe that it is possible. God continues to exhort us to believe in Him and in the Word that He has given us because He knows that as we do, we will see the signs, miracles, and wonders that He is ready and willing to send our way."

(At one point in the movie, the Bride looks skyward and says, "Thank you!" repeatedly. Viewers might wonder who she's addressing.)

Maurice Broaddus (Hollywood Jesus) praises the "great action, wonderfully acted characters, and brilliant direction." He describes it as "a revenge movie with a heart. The movie becomes about … a killer trying to leave her old life behind to start anew … for the sake of her child. But to do that, she has to put to death the 'old man' and by proxy, her old nature. The Bride finds her true calling, her self-salvation scheme, in the love she has for her child."

Chris Monroe (Christian Spotlight) writes, "Though the story never veers away from its motive for revenge, it was a little affecting to see this Terminatoresque female lead tap into sensitive facets of her feminine nature. I was taken aback to find myself moved by these qualities that she expresses."

Others focus on the film's failings. J. Robert Parks (Phantom Tollbooth) is frustrated by inconsistencies. "The first movie sets us up for one kind of film: highly stylized action pastiche. For Vol. 2 to give us a completely different movie—one that focuses on the deficiencies of Vol. 1—is both misguided and frustrating. We're offered two movies that have nothing in common with each other besides the actors and characters' names."

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"Sparer in tone and much more dialogue-heavy than its predecessor, it's no less eager to glory in gore," says Steven Isaac (Plugged In). He acknowledges that the Bride makes a decision to leave her job as an assassin in order to settle down, get married, and raise her child. But he adds that her "passionate love for her daughter is used as leverage to excuse her recent acts of revenge."

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says the movie is "as morally vacuous as its more overtly gory predecessor. Tarantino is obviously a filmmaker in love with cinema, a passion that translates onto the screen. Kill Bill is laced with flashes of visual brilliance and juicy dialogue, but it is also weighed down by a propensity for self-indulgent, showoffy camera work. The film's underlying theme of revenge is incompatible with the Christian understanding of justice and forgiveness."

from Film Forum, 05/13/04

Andrew Coffin (World) saw Kill Bill, Volume Two and says, "I like director Quentin Tarantino's cinematic inventiveness, but ever since Pulp Fiction I've respected his brain yet questioned his heart. Kill Bill 2 adds to those concerns. Does Tarantino showing off his cleverness make for a great movie? Not without heart."

Mark T. Conrad (Metaphilm) also explores the film, offering a remarkable new interpretation. It's therapy for Quentin Tarantino's broken childhood! It's all about his mom taking revenge on the dad who left them! And Conrad digs much deeper than that:

Remember: When Nietzsche said that God is dead, he didn't mean that an actual being, the Almighty, the First Cause, an omniscient, omnipotent creator had actually been killed. Rather, he meant that the idea, the institution of God ceased to have any meaning or relevance because we now view God as fictional and can no longer believe. Similarly, killing the father means killing the father's power over us, and that means that we have to stop viewing him as God, we have to reject that fiction, that misinterpretation.
This is exactly what Tarantino does to the father in Volume 2. Bill, the father, God, is completely humanized. In the first film we barely saw him, and never saw his face; he existed merely as an omnipresent threat …. Now … he's locally and physically present as a man, a mere mortal. This is that transforming moment when, as an adult, you recognize your old man's frailties and his shortcomings.

Kill Bill Vol. 2
Our Rating
3½ Stars - Good
Average Rating
(1 user ratings)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
R (for strong bloody violence, language and some sexual content)
Directed By
Quentin Tarantino
Run Time
2 hours 17 minutes
Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen
Theatre Release
April 16, 2004 by Miramax Films
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