Film Review: ‘The Hateful Eight’ (2015)

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Quentin Tarantino is one of those rare filmmakers who have created a following through their movies. He puts a movie out and his audience will flock to the theater no matter what. It’s great job stability in a typically unstable profession.

I’ve had a checkered relationship with Tarantino and his films. I’ve liked, but rarely loved, his movies. The consensus is that Pulp Fiction is his best film but the universal acclaim and supposed greatness escapes me. Perhaps a conversation for a different time? No, instead give me his two-part Kill Bill film, starring Uma Thurman, who is thirsty for revenge. His 2012 movie Django Unchained appeared high on my Top 10 list. Everything else, I’ve appreciated the craft but can’t say I truly loved.

That’s about where I land on his latest, The Hateful Eight. Like the majority of his work, there is mad genius within the film. The movie was released earlier as a 70mm roadshow, complete with an overture and intermission, clocking in at just over three hours. The regular theatrical released clocks two hours and 47 minutes. Tarantino doesn’t make a lot of films – this is only his eighth – but when he does he can’t be accused of going small.

Therein lies his problem. He desperately wants to accentuate the bombast of his pictures that he draws things out. The Hateful Eight doesn’t have three hours worth of material. At times, the characters just seem to be talking in circles and I’m not really sure if there is a clear arc in the story. Instead, Tarantino wants to revel – and his audience to revel – in the nastiness of his newest picture.

Set during a freezing Wyoming winter, The Hateful Eight begins with bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) transporting his latest prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Along the way, they meet Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), who is out in cold. They find a cabin, where an array of characters are currently living: Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), Bob (Demian Bichir), Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern) and Joe Gage (Michael Madsen).

The rest of the movie takes place in this cabin, where personalities clash in an apparent competition of who is more insufferable than the other. Setting most of The Hateful Eight in a small cabin is what makes the movie interesting. The sense of tension and claustrophobia is palpable, even when you realize the story isn’t really going anywhere.

The cast – like most Tarantino casts – are visibly having a blast delivering his madcap dialog. Jackson is a stand-out, having the most commanding presence among the eight. Leigh is getting a lot of Best Supporting Actress buzz for the film. I’ve always been of fan of hers, but her role is scene-chewing and one-note. She gets hit a lot and spews the n-word with great venom a gratuitous amount of times. We’ve seen much better work from the veteran character actress.

Some of you may think I have blasphemed a bit by not accepting Tarantino as a movie god. I appreciate his vision and ambitions (not to mention what he does for film preservation) but The Hateful Eight is a prime example of Tarantino getting in the way of himself.

The Hateful Eight rates 6 out of 10

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