With far less violence and mayhem than in Kill Bill Vol 1, a pleasing climax, and plenty of psychology, Kill Bill Vol 2 has turned out to be a muscular, visually stunning and gripping film.
With the presence of actors like David Carradine (hero of the 1970s television series Kung Fu) enhancing its appeal, the new Quentin Tarantino film offers a more-than-satisfying sequel.
Some fans of the first film may complain that the new movie is a bit of a downer in the action department. That is true. Though there are several thrilling action sequences, including a ferocious catfight in which Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah destroy a trailer in Vol 2, the movie does not soar as much as the first one.
Some may agree with Mark Caro of The Chicago Tribune, who wrote: 'For those seeking the vibrant innovation of Tarantino's first movies or the sheer rush of Kill Bill Vol 1, Vol 2 feels like a dulled blade.'
But those viewers could be in the minority, like Caro, who is among the few critics who have disliked the new film.
The new film certainly soars more effectively where emotions and performances are concerned. Despite its giddy tempo, bright colours, pulsating music, and the theme of vendetta, you feel that Tarantino has mellowed while shooting the part that eventually became the second film.
While once again one marvels at the dexterity and fluidity in Tarantino's direction and his ability to create a wonderful mosaic with elements culled from samurai films and Westerns, one also hopes to see the two films combined at one sitting in a movie theatre with an excellent sound system. And honour Tarantino's original plan. Those four hours surely will offer an uninterrupted adrenaline-raising trip.
Tarantino's first Kill Bill, which carried a $100 million tab, including marketing costs, grossed about $180 million worldwide. The video and DVD sales in America alone are expected to reach $100 million in a week. The film became one of the most profitable in the last few years.
The new movie opens with a great amount of excitement around the release of the video and concomitant publicity buzz. And it may end up earning mega bucks like the first one. Not often do sequels do the same business as the first film.
At the end of the first film, we were told that the baby taken from The Bride (Thurman), who was shot in the head and left for dead on her wedding night by her lover Bill and his associates, was still alive.
Bill is heard asking in Vol 1: "Is she aware her daughter is still alive?"
She isn't, but it won't be long before she understands the enormity of the violence and betrayal directed at her. Telling the story in chapters like he did in the previous film, Tarantino acquaints the viewers with key sequences in The Bride's life.
He even infuses the film with tender moments of romance that sound scary because we are watching highly volatile and violent people sharing moments of passion and tenderness.
In the new film, The Bride continues her quest seeking to eliminate everyone, including Bill, who sent her into a four-year coma.
The evil men include Budd (Michael Madsen), the sleazy brother of The Bride's former lover and boss Bill (Carradine). There's the eye-patch-wearing Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), who has become the top killer while The Bride has been trying to heal her physical and emotional wounds.
In the first film, we had heard Bill's rich and menacing voice. Now, we see Carradine in a career-reinventing role creating an awesome impact. With his weather-beaten face, perverse but magnetic appeal, and supple movements, he often steals the show from Thurman and Hannah.
Gordon Liu, veteran of over 150 Chinese martial arts movies, appears in a few scenes as the martial arts instructor for The Bride and leaves yet another awesome impression with his rapid-fire jibes and orders.
Despite the powerful performance by Carradine, Thurman is able to create a mesmerising world at times sad, often violent, and occasionally brimming with sexual tension and pleasant moods. Her electrifying performance and amazing talent for martial arts alone should make this film worth seeing.
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Gordon Liu
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Rating: R for violence, language, and brief drug use.
Running time: 136 minutes