Some reviewers loved this film, some hated it, and some were split on which of the two installments was the strongest. That was the case here at DVD Town, where in his review John J. Puccio gave the second film an 8 while he'd only scored the first one a 7. I saw it the other way around. I loved the unabashedly comic-book approach to the first film and the almost wordless, bloody choreography. The video tricks all supported director Quentin Tarantino's comic-on-film, and so did the sequences and most of the music. But I thought the same tricks worked against the second installment, with more spaghetti western and blaxploitation music taking away some of the focus that the first film had. Then there's the burden of having to explain all the mystery of the first volume, which weighs the second down a little with back-story explication and belated character development. Is it still entertaining? Certainly. But I don't think the parts add up to the same impressive whole as Vol. 1.
If "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" is practically no talk, "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" struck me as being all talk. And after keeping Bill off-camera, Tarantino wastes no time "unmasking" Bill (David Carradine) and setting him up as a father-figure as well as martial arts master and former lover (yeah, it's complicated). Daryll Hannah gets more air time as Elle Driver, and so does Budd (Michael Madsen). There are some nifty sequences at Budd's El Paso trailer and in the cemetery, but there are also plenty of scenes that take you out of the moment. When, in flashback, Bill plays a long bamboo flute for The Bride (whose name, we learn in this installment, is Beatrix Kiddo), it's hard not to be momentarily transported to moments like those that partially defined Carradine's famous TV role of Kane in "Kung Fu." And tonally, I can't figure out what Tarantino was trying to accomplish with scenes involving Beatrix's apprenticeship to Kung Fu master Pei Mei (Gordon Liu, who knows a thing or two about such things). Some parts seem "Kung Fu" serious, but then there's Pei Mei constantly stroking his beard in an affectation that seemed laughable to me. I found myself wondering, So what is Tarantino doing here? And I just wasn't taken out of the first film the same way.
Beginnings aren't either film's strong suit. This one starts out with a black-and-white recap that I kept thinking could have been more adroitly handled. It struck me as clumsy. The last installment ended with Bill asking, rhetorically, "Is she aware her daughter is still alive?" But nothing happens with that thread until the very end of the film. So why did Bill wipe out an entire wedding party and put a bullet in the head of The Bride? We find that out and more this second installment, including why Bill went ballistic on The Bride: "I overreacted."
In Vol. 2, The Bride says she's just down to one name on her list, "Bill," and then it's flashback again to her time with Bill, her training with the Kung Fu master, and her attempts to knock two more names off her list: Elle and Budd. Then it's on to Bill and that question raised at the end of the first installment.
After watching this again in Blu-ray, I'm convinced that it would be hard if not impossible to edit the two volumes into one smooth and cohesive film. They're both so tonally different that they really are two separate films. All of the back story and character development not only slows down the second volume--it also gives it the cachet of real life, especially sequences involving Budd, who's somehow gone from being an international assassin to being a bouncer in a "titty bar" that has no customers, and living in a trailer on the edge of nowhere, drinking more than most. That's why, when we get a momentary split-screen as we did in the first installment, or when we get another "trick," it just doesn't have the same effect. The second volume is far more serious and rooted in realism than the first, and Tarantino's attempts to tell the story in the same style feels just a little off.
That there's more dialogue in the second installment isn't a problem, but the fact that the dialogue can be pretty dumb in spots does hurt. "You don't owe me a damn thing," Bill tells The Bride. "If he's the man you want, go stand by him." Oh, please. Whereas tension evolved naturally in the first installment, some scenes seem drawn out in an attempt to create a tension that never really develops until we do get to the Budd And Elle sequences, which, for my money are the real meat of the second installment. Here's where we get something that seems fresh and fun and full of energy.
There will be plenty of people who disagree with me on this, but I thought the first film was an 8 out of 10 and this one a 7. Yes, we get more character development and explication, but at what price?
As with the first installment, "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" has an improved 3-dimensionality and more vivid and vibrant colors than the standard def DVDs, though to the naked eye the film seemed pretty darned good in standard def. But in 1080p (AVC/MPEG-4 codec, BD-50 disc) it's worth the upgrade. I saw no visual compression artifacts, though there did appear to be some edge enhancements.
The audio is a sparkling PCM 5.1 uncompressed surround (48kHz/24-bit) that involves all of the channels, though rear-speaker ambient noise isn't as constant as you might expect. Overall, there's a nice rich timbre and a crisp, precise sound that makes every sigh and grunt feel as if it's magnified. Steps across the floor? Chilling. Additional audio options are English and French Dolby Digital 5.1, with subtitles in English SDH and Spanish. A curious thing, though. As with "Kill Bill, Vol. 1," there was an inexplicable high-pitched "beep" at one point during the film (there were three in the first volume). What that is, I have no idea.
As with "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" there's not much in the way of bonus features. A just-under 20-minute making-of feature is okay but not great, and a deleted scene ("Damoe") showing Bill taking out a bunch of killers isn't much to see. Other than that, it's just a "Chingon" music performance from Robert Rodriguez's electric mariachi band at the film's opening.
No one is going to buy just one "Kill Bill," and fans will have their own opinion on which one was better or if both are equally good. That's what makes film so interesting. It touches all of us on a personal level, no matter what other people have to say. But I think "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" is more talk than action and more back story and explication than the film would have warranted if the mysterious first installment didn't place such a burden on the second.