> Volume 6 > Number 16


Quentin Tarantino

Uma Thurman
David Carradine
Michael Madsen
Daryl Hannah
Gordon Liu
Perla Haney-Jardine

Release: 16 Apr. 04

Kill Bill: Vol. 2


There are two sides to Quentin Tarantino: the overbearing film geek and the thoughtful dodger. In person, neither is particularly tolerable, but when allowed to seep into his art, they take on a personality their own. Even if the thoughtful side has been long dormant (making its stunning debut in Jackie Brown), their marriage in Kill Bill: Vol. 2 complements a career built around being the most annoying personality in Hollywood. The Kill Bill films, like their creator, are pure dissonance, but they seem to make the finest symphony out of false notes.

Again, this is the work of a man obsessed with the films he’s seen and given the chance to make fairly big-budget films to remind audiences of them. He doesn’t care that most of the people who see Kill Bill: Vol. 2 won’t get the Shogun Assassin reference –- he gets it, which is all that matters. His reverence for cinematic history, or at least the segments he fetishizes, is uniquely profound in its coolness. Tarantino is a selfish man who wants us to catch up to his level of cinephelia, and doesn’t care if we are left behind. I find it fitting that he originally considered playing the role of Pai Mei, a sadistic kung-fu coach who leaves his subjects to painfully toil as they attempt to reach his level of artistry.

Personality is an attribute I cherish in films, which may be why I’m a sucker for Tarantino’s complete oeuvre of half-assed meditations on Hollywood and Asian (and, now, Italian) pop cultural, especially the violent conventions. If I were to make a feature film –- a scary day in filmmaking, to say the least –- it would likely be overburdened with French New Wave references and impenetrable pretensions. Importantly, I would love the film, and likely not worry about how others felt.

Of course, my hypothetical movie wouldn’t be good because it wouldn’t have the same grasp of personality-as-fiction that Tarantino has perfected. He’s not a violent person (other than his impromptu boxing years ago), but he is the lover and the purveyor of its beauty. To some, the violence he shows is abhorrent and overblown. Yet, the extreme style is what sets him apart from a truly sadistic filmmaker like Michael Haneke, Lars von Trier, or Takeshi Miike. Tarantino would likely bow at their feet, which wondering how to exploit their genius for his own personal pleasure.

Kill Bill: Vol. 2, despite coming with intended victims, one more than in the previous film, is a much less violent movie, yet no less cruel. Again, he’s practicing the motions of his heroes –- Ennio Morricone is now his greatest obsession –- while not sparing the audience of the showmanship. Cruelty, he shows, isn’t just watching a person die, but also arguing why the death doesn’t matter. I won’t divulge the total body count here, but it is fractional compared to the first film. And yet, unlike there, Tarantino allows the audience to care about The Bride’s (Thurman) intended victims, including the somber Budd (Madsen) and the elegiac Bill (Carradine; he’s the John Travolta/Robert Forster for these films, delivering amazing work after a career of marginal roles). Their likely demise is troublesome, even when they again hurt The Bride. When Tarantino giddily reminds the audience of their presence in the films during the concluding picture credits (perhaps the finest closure to a film in years, needed considering how long-winded these two works have been), they’re tough to deal with because Tarantino has given them more dimensions than his revengeful heroine.

Being meditative isn’t his style, though, which may be why the film’s pat, playful ending feels so right. Even when the film’s been a rollercoaster of emotions (who thought that would even be said of a Tarantino film), the landing pattern is still one of braggart arrogance by an entertainer. Even if he’s just entertaining himself, the masturbatory motions of the Kill Bill films are no less engaging than much of the source material he’s lifted. I feel I know Quentin Tarantino better from watching these films –- which, for better or worse, I could never say from the Shaw brothers or Morricone

©2004, David Perry,, 16 April 2004