Five-Month Wait Ends for Chopped-Up Kung Fu Film

Now in theaters: Kill Bill: Vol. 2.

Kill Bill: Vol 2

I wasn't expecting this. I wasn't a fan of Kill Bill: Vol. 1, perhaps the most brutal mainstream film ever. The Wall Street Journal actually sent a reporter to count the fatalities and ran a box score, including three by shotgun and 46 by sword, with a grand total of 70 fatalities.

Kill Bill 1 starts with a massacre at Uma Thurman's wedding and the rest of the movie is all fight scene with no context. Not here. Quentin Tarantino uses movie images, even movie clichés to create a great film.

Vol. 2 opens with a gorgeous homage to 1940s film noir. I remember those days, and when the wind gushes through Thurman's platinum hair, black and white never looked so good

Tarantino pays tribute to some of film's greatest moments like a DJ sampling far-flung hits. The shot of Thurman emerging from the wedding chapel came right out of John Ford's The Searchers.

The karate master who tutors Thurman is Gordon Liu, who played this same character in about 100 kung fu movies.

Still, you really don't need to know those things. Kill Bill is much more than a heap of movie references, just as your grandmother's apple pie is more than cinnamon and nutmeg. They are just the spices that season the whole. That's what's great about Kill Bill 2.

Tarantino juggles time, but not arbitrarily, returning to Uma's apprenticeship as she learns three tricks from Master Liu. She'll use one of them in her fight with Daryl Hannah, who was part of the gang who turned her wedding day into a bloodbath.

Hannah works for Bill, the leader of the gang, who we finally learn is David Carradine. Some of the fight scenes will have you simultaneously cheering, laughing, hiding your eyes and shouting Yeeeccchhhh!

I can't think of another film that demands as much stretch from an actor — from warm and loving to chilling and cold-blooded. Thurman is always in the moment and always takes us with her.

I don't think this has ever happened before. Kill Bill 2 isn't a sequel, it's a second half of a film that opened five months ago. Long movies like Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments used to have intermissions. Come back in 15 minutes for commandments 6, 7 and 8.

This is a movie with a five-month intermission. I wouldn't have done it that way, but I hope it pays off. You do not have to have seen Kill Bill 1 to love Kill Bill 2. It is a great film all on its own. And, yes, an Oscar nomination at least for Thurman. Grade: A