Die! Die! My Darling!

A few months ago, when Kill Bill, Volume 1 came out, Nik and I decided to skip it until Volume 2 was released. We figured we’d rather see it all at once than cut in half. Yesterday, we went over to Bruce and Tim’s place, and popped the cherry of Bruce’s new Kill Bill, Volume 1 DVD. Then we drove over to the theater and caught Volume 2.

Some spoilers below if you haven’t seen these movies so beware.

Interestingly enough, you can easily see Volume 2 without seeing Volume 1. There is just so little plot in Volume 1, there’s practically nothing to know. I can sum it all up in one sentence:

“The Bride”, an ex-assassin for hire, is shot at the altar by her former boss and lover and, after spending four years in a coma, wakes up, makes a death list, and then takes bloody vengeance on the first two people on the list.

That’s about it. The rest of Volume 1 is fighting. Or to be more precise, Tarantino’s homage to the fight scenes of wuxia, martial arts, and chambara films of the 70s. The fight scenes are well done, as you’d expect with Yuen Wo-ping on board to do the choreography. The Bride’s duel with Gogo the schoolgirl bodyguard was especially entertaining. I remembered Chiaki Kuriyama, the actress that played Gogo, from the sick-and-bent-yet-strangely-entertaining Japanese film Battle Royale. And amusingly enough, the band that plays at the Tokyo showdown is the 5,6,7,8’s, who I saw in Seattle about a month after I moved here in 1997. Wacky.

Anyway, Volume 1 had some good bits but on its own was a bit hollow. This, it turns out, is because the actual story is in Volume 2, including a lengthy flashback showing the entire church massacre that puts the Bride into a coma in the first place. Volume 2 finally lets you get to know the characters and explains the series of events that led to Uma Thurman’s quest for vengeance. Along the way there are some superb performances. Of course, my favorite is probably kung fu legend Gordon Liu as cranky sifu Pai Mai. Daryl Hannah, of all people, is simply amazing as the Bride’s mortal enemy, Elle Driver. David Carradine is also outstanding in the titular role. I’ve begun to think that Tarantino is the Anti-Lucas. George Lucas gets good actors but his directing style breeds bad performances, whereas Tanantino gets B-list actors but coaxes out great performances.

After seeing both, I have come to the ironic conclusion that they really are two different movies. I think the pacing would be all off if you just smashed them together. You’d have nearly two hours of fighting, and then the movie would come to a screeching halt as all the plot and dialog developed. If you see only one, go for Volume 2. It’s the better film, unless you really are keen on a blood-soaked orgy of violence.

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