“Bill’s last bullet put me in a coma. A coma I was to lie in for four years. When I woke up, I went on what the movie advertisements refer to as a ‘roaring rampage of revenge.’ I roared. And I rampaged. And I got bloody satisfaction. I’ve killed a hell of a lot of people to get to this point, but I have only one more. The last one. The one I’m driving to right now. The only one left. And when I arrive at my destination, I am gonna kill Bill.”
That’s what Uma Thurman’s character The Bride (whose real name is later revealed as Beatrix Kiddo) says in the nostalgia-soaked, old-timey opening scene of “Kill Bill: Volume 2.” It’s very Quentin Tarantino — a nod to a bygone era, in the middle of a story that’s unlike anything else. It’s a slight jump ahead, as the story still has to show us how Beatrix bested two more of Bill’s killer gang, but it’s a striking, stylish opening.
When we last saw Beatrix, she crossed the second name out of five off her kill list, leaving dozens of bodies in her wake, and now she’s going after the last three members of the gang of cold-blooded assassins that betrayed her by shooting her in the head at her wedding rehearsal. So, just like the recap article for “Kill Bill: Volume 1,” I’m going to break this article down by the people on Beatrix’s list since each essentially gets their own vignette.
Elle Driver / Budd
“Kill Bill: Volume 2” contains the strongest moments in the combined four-hour Kill Bill saga, and most of those involve the interactions between Beatrix and Bill. That said, it also has the weakest — those usually revolve around Elle Driver and Budd.
Budd, Bill’s estranged brother, lives in a motorhome in the middle of nowhere, working at a sleepy strip club, where his coke-head boss belittles him. Although he expressed borderline remorse for what they did, he still captures Beatrix by shooting her with a 12-gauge loaded with rock salt and decides to bury her alive. locked in a coffin, Beatrix then starts a backstory about her training that gets a little cheesy, although it provides the reason she’s able to work her way out. It’s the only time a homage feels like a swing and a miss.
While she’s buried, Budd takes Beatrix’s newly-made super-sword and offers it to Elle Driver, another name on Beatrix’s list, for a million dollars. Elle double-crosses Budd, who dies by a snake bite to the face. Beatrix flies in as it’s happening, eventually ripping out Elle’s last-working eye. Both Elle Driver and Budd feel underdeveloped and shallow compared to the rest of the cast, but their stories are just strong enough to float the narrative toward the title character.
It’s hard to watch Beatrix’s final road to Bill without thinking about Thurman’s life-threatening car wreck, caused by Tarantino’s irresponsible negligence, but the final scenes, acting-wise, are the finest in the film, and among the tensest in the career of a writer-director known for that sort of thing. When she turns a corner with a gun, ready to finally kill Bill, she finds him sitting with their daughter, who she had no clue is alive. It’s the first time we see an extended scene shared by David Carradine, who plays Bill, and Thurman, and their chemistry is explosive. The complexity of their acting and the writing astounds — for a minute, you’re not sure if they’re going to rip out each other’s throats, or run away together to the edge of the world. But, then you remember the movie is called Kill Bill, and revenge needs to be paid. How Thurman changes her emotional landscape after Beatrix finds out she has a child is piercing, as is how Carradine makes Bill charming enough not completely to despise. The end result is the apex of a wild ride.