Whereas 2003's Kill Bill Vol. 1 was all kill, kill, kill, in Vol. 2 there's plenty of talk, a smidgen of character development and a hefty dose of sentiment to go along with all the slaughter. I'll take Vol. 2 any day. Just when you're ready to write off director-writer Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction) as an arrested-in-adolescence, rip-off hack with pretensions to grandeur, he rescues his reputation with this one.
Kill Bill Vol. 2 won't be everyone's cup of tea. You have to like your brew strong and with a hint of sour lemon to enjoy it. The killing here is hardly pretty—in one scene someone's eyeball is gouged out, stomped on and squished between bare toes in loving closeup—but it is artful. The plot again centers on the Bride (Thurman), who was shot in the head during her wedding rehearsal and spent four years in a coma. She's still seeking vengeance against former beau Bill (Carradine) and the assassins—at least those she didn't kill in Vol. 1—he hired to mow down the rest of her wedding party. Or, as she alliteratively puts it, she's continuing on her "roaring rampage of revenge."
This time we find out much more about the Bride, her past and the motives of her assailants. It all clicks in Vol. 2 and is beautifully paced, except for the windy windup, which stretches on too long. Thurman gives a strong, impassioned performance, Carradine hits all the right wry notes, and Hannah and Madsen deliver showy turns as killers. As a martial arts master who trains Thurman in a flashback, Asian kung-fu star Gordon Liu is tremendous fun, stroking and tossing his long silken white beard as if auditioning for a shampoo commercial. (R)