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DVD Pick: "Kill Bill Vol. 2"

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"Did you really think your life in El Paso was gonna work?" That question is asked of The Bride (Uma Thurman) late in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill Vol. 2" (2004). And I think that question helps us see how the movie provides a satisfying ending to the story begun in "Kill Bill Vol. 1" (2003). It seems to me that over the span of the two films, Tarantino shows us a woman's spiritual journey.

The plot in the "Kill Bill" movies involves a five-member assassination squad massacring an entire wedding party, except for The Bride. Badly wounded, she spends four years in a coma before awakening to go on "a roaring rampage of revenge." But I would characterize Tarantino's story as being about how a woman accustomed to "jetting around the world, killing human beings, and being paid vast sums of money" changes so that she can begin a new and completely different phase of her life.

I found "Kill Bill Vol. 2" to be very different in tone from "Vol. 1." The first movie is more like a high-energy martial-arts film, while the second is deliberately paced like a spaghetti Western. The first has almost wall-to-wall action, while the second has few action sequences and lots of talk. Much of "Vol. 1" takes place in Asia, while most of "Vol. 2" is set in Barstow, El Paso, and Mexico.

At the beginning of "Vol. 2," we learn more about the massacre at Two Pines Wedding Chapel. It turns out the slaughter didn't actually take place on The Bride's wedding day—it occurred at a dress rehearsal! And I think it's quirky touches like this that make Tarantino movies so much fun: Who ever heard of a wedding rehearsal where the bride wears her wedding dress? But we get some insight into the mind of the used-record-store owner she's marrying when he explains, "Why pay so much money for a dress you're only gonna wear once?"

In "Vol. 1" we never got a good look at The Bride's former lover Bill, but in "Vol. 2" he’s in several scenes, and he is played by David Carradine, best known as the star of the "Kung Fu" TV series. Bill headed up the assassination squad, and when The Bride finally tracks him down in Mexico, he tells her, "There are consequences to breaking the heart of a murdering bastard." I thought Carradine was just right for his role in "Kill Bill," and he and Thurman have good chemistry in their scenes together.

Also in "Vol. 2" we meet Bill's brother Budd (Michael Madsen), who was one of the members of the assassination squad. The Bride locates him living in a trailer outside Barstow, California. He's down on his luck and working as a bouncer at a strip joint called the My Oh My Club. He says he sold his Hattori Hanzo sword, and when told it was priceless, he responds, "Well, not in El Paso, it ain't. In El Paso, I got me $250 for it."

The only fairly lengthy action sequence in "Vol. 2" comes when The Bride has it out with another member of the assassination squad, Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah). Elle turns out to be a worthy opponent, but before the showdown takes place, Tarantino has her read aloud some notes she made from the Internet: "In the bush, an elephant can kill you, a leopard can kill you, and a black mamba can kill you. But only with the mamba, and this has been true in Africa since the dawn of time, is death sure."

Another pleasure of a Tarantino movie is that he gives good scenes to minor characters. One of my favorites in "Vol. 2" is where an 80-year-old retired gentleman of leisure (Michael Parks) in a cantina tells The Bride, "Being a fool for a woman such as yourself is always the right thing to do."

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