‘Kill Bill’ will slay action buffs

    What a difference an ending makes. Or does the ending even matter?

    The second installment of the “Kill Bill” epic is markedly better than the first, but not because the the Bride (Uma Thurman) squares off with her ex-boss Bill (David Carradine, “Kung Fu” TV series) in a fight to the death. “Vol. 1” convinces the audience of its coolness on overwhelming fight choreography and Tarantino name-brand appeal alone. The plot appears alluring, and the visuals — the bombshells, art design and swordplay alike — were enough reason to pay admission for the first.

    “Vol. 2” actually unearths the Bride’s motivations for her passionate vengeance, while showcasing the dialogue, storyline jumps and character development that make Quentin Tarantino such a special filmmaker, but were largely absent from the first volume.

    The story thus far has the Bride recovering from a gunshot to the head at the hand of Bill — the boss of the Deadly Vipers Assassination Squad and, as we learn, the father of her now-four-year-old daughter — and seeking revenge upon all five of her former cohorts in the squad. In “Vol. 1” The Bride traveled to suburban Los Angeles and Tokyo to dispose of Vivica A. Fox and Lucy Liu, respectively. “Vol. 2” documents her search in the Wild West for Budd (Michael Madsen), Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) and, finally, Bill.

    The characters are better described in “Vol. 2,” as the audience sees Bill being equally charming and soft-spoken as he is ruthless. Carradine, credited with more than 100 film and TV roles, describes his role as being the best of his career and the film as being the best production he’s ever been a part of.

    Along the way in “Vol. 2”, Tarantino treats moviegoers to a 25-minute tangent on The Bride’s training under Pei Mei — the Chinese martial arts master with cotton candy eyebrows who holds the secret of the Five-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique — and the wisdom/abuse he bestows upon her. The absurdity of the Bride’s arrival at Bill’s lair — she’s ready to engage in cold-hearted combat, and then shifts gears on the spot to play Mommy when she discovers her daughter playing with Daddy Bill — is so surreal: Playtime with the four-year-old is a successful buffer between the Bride’s vengeance, being in a coma, tied up and buried alive in a wooden casket, attacked by 100 ninja warriors and shot three times phase her quest.

    The film’s moral — that the scores of deaths throughout the plot are justified if it means a mother can be with the daughter she’s never met — is cheesy, but experiencing volumes one and two are a must for any action/adventure movie buff. The “Kill Bill” epic has the romantic elements of a Western in the vein of Sergio Leone or John Ford combined with all the stoicism and finesse of a Shaw Brothers kung-fu film, paying homage and satirizing the good, the bad and the ugly of each genre in the styling of Tarantino.

    For those allergic to gory images like toes squishing an eyeball, don’t waste your time or lunch on this over-the-top kung-fu flick. To everyone else, get in line: The Bride is kicking ass and taking names later.

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