Vernita Green and O-Ren Ishii are down, but for the Bride (Thurman), there's still three to go - Budd (Madsen), the murderous one-eye Elle Driver (Hannah), and the big bad voodoo daddy of them all, Bill (Carradine)…
WARNING - MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS
Despite stronger critical notices than its superior anterior, the fourth-and-a-bit movie by Quentin Tarantino arrives on DVD with enough indecent haste to make one wonder if the studio has belatedly acknowledged that it struggled to stand alone. Hmmm. Well, taking our lead from QT's recent combined Cannes cut, the correct way to experience Vol. 2 is this: 1) Watch Vol. 1 first, ejecting the disc before Bill's final, 'Does she know?' line. 2) Take a tea break. 3) Skip Vol. 2's 'Previously on Kill Bill' catch-up and settle down for the denouement.
Inspected at such close quarters, even QT groupies may determine just how undisciplined the original '90-minute' (sic) screenplay must have been. The impounded Pussy Wagon is excused in a throwaway quip, but what happened to the 'death list five' - so redolent of The Bride's state of mind in Vol. 1? And if the manga'd-up O-Ren origin was considered so fundamental that an entire chapter was lavished on it in Vol. 1, where is the back-story for Elle Driver or Budd or Beatrix Kiddo? (Okay, so she once sparred with a stock Shaw Brothers' villain, but how and, moreover, why did she become an assassin in the first place?)
You could argue that such nitpicking is glib - after all, KB is an anthology told in contrasting east-west genres. And yet, to understand just how much damage was inflicted on Vol. 2 - as opposed to Vol. 1 - by this lack of discipline and the consequent decision to hack the film in half, consider The Brideís reaction to the revelation that her presumed-dead foetus survived and has been raised by her nemesis. Physically exhausted, emotionally spent and in total shock, Thurman - in her best moment - sinks to her knees.
QT designed this twist so that we would share not only Kiddo's pain, but her fatigue and her surprise also. Following the original blueprint, the audience would barely have recovered from the bloody Blue Leaves battle and we would have NO IDEA the unborn child had survived - instead, we've coasted through an incident-packed but hardly shattering 90 minutes waiting for Kiddo to discover what we already know, and for an action climax to rival Vol. 1's set-piece that never arrives.
Taken together, the structure of Kill Bill is so ramshackle that you don't have to be Miramax's fabled Harvey Scissorhands to identify those extraneous episodes that could have been saved for DVD had the studio not ripped up its own rulebook to accommodate their house genius. But - and this is a BIG BUT - you can understand why QT was personally loath to lose, well, anything really, because even Vol. 2's most unpromising detours slough off effortless cool - do we need to see the enterprising Bride ask directions from Esteban Vihaio? No. Is Michael Parks' woman-hating pimp entertaining? Yes.
Besides, there is now no reason to view Vol. 2 in isolation ever again (naturally, it still has to be purchased separately) and, reunited with its more kinetic, eye-catching predecessor, its function as the feminine Yin to Vol. 1's Yang becomes clear. With Bill killed and her child returned, The Bride is finally satisfied - and at the end of another long-awaited reunion, so are we.
It may not extend the world in a way that proper sequels should, but it supplies interiors and intensity, providing characters room to breathe - and speak. Equally, Vol. 2's third act may not compete in the action or iconography stakes, but removed from these needless comparisons, the intimate, altogether emotional ending hits all the right notes and provides a perfect balance.