Kill Bill, Volume 2 (Blu-ray)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 137 minutes
Audio: PCM 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French
Subtitles: English, Spanish, others
MSRP: $ 34.99
Release Date: September 9, 2008
Review Date: September 5, 2008
Kudos to writer-director Quentin Tarantino for not simply dishing up more of the same malevolent merriment in the second half of Kill Bill. Measured, stoic, and masterfully controlled, Kill Bill, Volume 2 is every bit as entertaining as Volume 1 was but in a completely different way and with a daring kind of graceful sensibility that I actually preferred over the kaleidoscopic free-for-all of the first half. Those expecting a zippy rehash of the previous mayhem will naturally be greatly disappointed, but this second film stands on its own as a baronial exercise in exposition and fulfillment.
Having eliminated two of the five persons on her self-determined “hit list” in Volume 1 of Kill Bill, The Bride/Black Mamba/Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) now goes after the remaining three enemies: Budd (Michael Madsen), Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), and, of course, Bill himself (David Carradine). Along the way we get backstory about the wedding rehearsal which was disrupted by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, find out why the Bride had run away from the gang in the first place, and observe her lengthy training session with oriental master Pai Mei (Gordon Liu). Though Beatrix was very much in control during the first part, she is much more a target in this concluding half of the story.
As he did in Volume 1, writer-director Tarantino goes back and forth in time routinely, and it’s to his great credit that the audience is never confused by these sudden transitions. Sometimes he does alter the look of the footage to correspond to times different from the present, but even without those stylish touches, it isn’t difficult at all to follow the narrative. Once again, there are some stunning set pieces, my favorite being the burial alive sequence where the audio rather than the visuals bears the brunt of the tension and does so admirably. The training sequence with Pai Mei is also rather mesmerizing, Tarantino’s deft compositions corroborating the skillful warrior and hardened assassin that Beatrix had demonstrated so fluently in Volume 1 but which we took on faith since we had no way to understand how someone so beautiful and fragile looking could mask such a lethally punishing persona.
Uma Thurman once again displays an astonishing presence both physical and emotional as (the now identified) Beatrix Kiddo. Both delicious and deadly, Thurman’s performance in both volumes of this film can’t be hailed loudly enough. Michael Madsen’s laidback, paunchy Budd is also one of the film’s purest joys while Daryl Hannah has some superb moments as the treacherous Elle. David Carradine is perhaps a little more philosophical and a little less involved in action than one expects as Bill, but that’s probably Tarantino’s little ironic joke on the audience that the person we’ve waited through two movies to see the Bride square off against isn’t that much of an adversary. Look fast and you’ll see Samuel L. Jackson as the rehearsal pianist in a quick but not-so-effective cameo. Much funnier is Michael Parks showing up in this volume as Esteban Vihaio, a mentor of Bill’s.
Volume 2 of Kill Bill is wordier and less frenetic than Volume 1 was, but taken on its own terms, it’s a skillfully designed and utterly satisfying flip side of the Kill Bill coin, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable.
The 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is presented here in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. If anything, the second half of Kill Bill looks even more spectacular on Blu-ray than the first half did. The black and white sequence at White Pines is stunning in its effusive grayscale design with tons of detail and gorgeous black levels (though whites do occasionally bloom, likely on purpose). Most of the color footage has a lushness and detail that puts one right in the picture. For example, Michael Parks’ contact lenses are easily spotted in his close-ups. In fact, only a few seconds of line twitter spoil what is otherwise an absolutely exemplary presentation. The film has been divided into 19 chapters.
The PCM 5.1 (6.9 Mbps) audio mix could not be more grandly presented. The music lushly surrounds the viewer with a wide expanse, and the sound effects are all superb. The lifelike thundering sounds of hammering and dirt being spread on the casket during the burial sequence make those moments so chilling that they’re worth the price of the disc themselves channeling to the subwoofer some grand LFE. True, because there are fewer kick ass moments in the film compared to the first movie, the opportunities for lots of ambient effects are lessened, but that is no fault of the transfer. The soundtrack here is masterful.
All of the bonus features are in 480i.
“The Making of Kill Bill Volume 2” is an effective EPK for the second half of the saga with Quentin Tarantino, producer Lawrence Bender, and much of the principal cast talking about the film and their parts in its production. Specifically Tarantino explains why part two is less action-filled and more philosophical than part one. It runs 26 minutes.
“Damoe” deleted scene is a very entertaining outtake featuring David Carradine in a quick paced fight sequence that runs 3 ½ minutes.
“Chingon” musical performance features director-composer Robert Rodriguez performing music (some featured in the movie) at the Kill Bill Volume 2 premiere in 2004. This runs 11 ½ minutes.
Kill Bill, Volume 2 brings the story of the battered and vengeful Bride to a stoic and satisfying conclusion. The Blu-ray presentation of the film is a stellar achievement and is highly recommended.
The package also contains a $10 rebate coupon for those who are upgrading their DVD version of the film to Blu-ray.