Kill Bill: Vol. 1 was a Quentin Tarantino showcase of the most elemental kind -- style-heavy, funny, action-packed and violent as hell. Add to that the Tarantino's trademark smart 'n' snappy dialogue and you had a thrilling homage to some of the more esoteric cinematic delights of the past 50 years, including exploitation, noir, Japanese samurai flicks and spaghetti westerns. Its companion film, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, on the other hand, is almost an entirely different beast. It's also unlike anything Tarantino has ever brought to the screen.
You don't even have to have seen Vol. 1 to experience something remarkable here. The story of the wedding party massacre that sets our anti-hero, the Bride (Uma Thurman), on her quest for revenge is retold -- but this time from a decidedly different, more illuminating perspective. Though you probably wouldn't have been able to see it coming simply from watching the first installment, Kill Bill: Vol. 2 is a love story, albeit one punctuated with a fair amount of betrayal, violence and outright carnage. It's surprising and complex, even tender in places. The Bride's double-crossing former compatriot assassins (played by Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen and David Carradine as "Bill"), are given considerable depth as characters. No longer mere bloodless killing machines, their moments of vulnerability make them at least partially sympathetic -- and, at least mostly, dead.
For her part, Uma Thurman should receive major kudos, not only for turning in another riveting performance, but for the physical torture she no doubt endured at the hands of her friend and director.
Those who loved the first volume for its splashy action and buckets of blood may be disappointed with the second. For the rest of us, including those with an appreciation for story, character development and heart, Kill Bill: Vol. 2 more than delivers -- all without sacrificing any entertainment value. It's a companion piece that adds flesh to the original.
Don't worry, the fire and the fury still burn in the belly of the Bride. And she's just as dangerous and resourceful as ever (as her cemetery escape proves). When revenge finally comes, it is bittersweet indeed.