Vol. 2 is a very strong film, but not as immediately arresting as Vol. 1. The first thing that sets it apart from its predecessor is that it’s not an action film. It contains action sequences, but Vol. 2 is all about exploring the characters it presents–and then ending them in a burst of savage violence. In this regard, however, it is also a very unbalanced film, because the main character revelations come in the last half hour. Taking the two films as a whole, the pacing makes sense: strong build-up followed by a measure of reflection, and concluded with a twisty flourish. Yet however much sense it made for Tarantino to split the film where he did, and regardless of the emotion sting in the tail, this structure inevitably leads to Vol. 2 being the weaker of the two. Having said that, it is a beautifully shot and acted film, filled with the quirky directorial touches for which Tarantino is justly famous. It is crammed with in-jokes, cinematic references, and loving parodies. The core family dilemma that Bill and the Bride have to confront is not original, but Tarantino’s brutal treatment of it is unique and powerful.
Update: Upon reflection, I think this deserves an upgrade to 4.5 stars.