Bill’ kills cult status

Kyle Smith column

Last weekend it seemed you couldn’t avoid the following exchange:

Lame-O: Hey! I just saw “Kill Bill: Vol. 2.”

Hipster: One more word and I’ll slit your throat.

Even vague, accidental allusions (“Whoa, ‘Splash’ is on!”) to virgin viewers regarding the second half of Quentin Tarantino’s heretofore magnum opus was social suicide punishable by some godforsaken Tarantino-esque torture (i.e. the offender must watch every movie David Carradine has made since 1992’s “Evil Toons,” which stars two demonic cartoons that rape and kill naked women).

Ill will was cast upon spoilers of “Kill Bill: Vol. 2,” when it was the first chapter that held all the surprises. Oh sure, there are the obvious secrets we wanted to know (The Bride’s real name, lordy!), but “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” is a movie more notable for its deliberately pedestrian pacing than the cinematic revolution of “Vol. 1,” which was a movie treasured by film geeks and NASCAR dads alike. What distinguishes “Kill Bill” from the unbelievable “Pulp Fiction” is its compulsive obsession with Tarantino’s favorite genres, as opposed to the loving homage of “Fiction.”

Don’t get me wrong — “Vol. 2” is terrific. But it plays the same cards as Tarantino’s 1997 drama “Jackie Brown” as it self-consciously smiles at its tameness. And while it has an urgency “Brown” lacked, it relies too much on Tarantino’s cinematic piety to have the same emotional wallop and excitement as “Brown.” Watching “Vol. 2” is an exercise in movie-watching skills, not the human drama Tarantino wants it to be.

The “Kill Bill” films are as radically different as the “Matrix” sequels. Imagine if the misunderstood “Revolutions,” a pure action film much in the same vein as “Vol. 1,” was released first, thus building hype for the ambitious, misguided melodrama of “Reloaded.” Audiences may then have embraced the “Matrix” trilogy as they have the “Kill Bills.”

Even more interesting is the overall tone of “Vol. 2.” Were the films to have been released as one epic, it would have run nearly four hours long. Given Tarantino’s style of cutting his story into non-linear episodes, chapters in the second film could have been placed into the first. One such change would completely alter the film, and begs the question — did Tarantino cut right down the middle, or organize carefully based on Miramax’s ultimatum?

Tarantino has no concept of subtlety, which explains the cartoonish awesomeness of the first and the boring but badass dialogue of the second. Watching “Vol. 2,” I could also see Tarantino breathlessly pitching each episode to Miramax suits.

But the most exciting thing about “Vol. 2” has been its incredible reception. This is essentially a $60 million cult film that has ruled the box office. People love this movie, even if they can’t follow its obcure shout-outs and references.

When I first reviewed “Kill Bill,” I was reminded of Tarantino’s equally indulgent early 90’s Miramax brother, Kevin Smith. “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” was Smith’s worthless way of satisfying all his boyhood crushes on “Star Wars” characters — it was a movie that would make only his die-hard fans happy.

Smith and Tarantino are self-admitted losers who have been lucky enough to amass cult status among lonely chat room fanboys and comic book guys. With the complete “Kill Bill,” Tarantino has taken the passion out of film freaks and given it to the masses.

In other words, “Kill Bill” is masturbatory cinema that we can all enjoy. 

Communication sophomore Kyle Smith is film editor for PLAY. He can be reached at [email protected]