Movie Review: The Hateful Eight

Set a few years after the Civil War, a stagecoach hurtles through the wintry Wyoming landscape. The passengers, bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), race towards the town of Red Rock where Ruth, known in these parts as “The Hangman,” will bring Domergue to justice. Along the road, they encounter two strangers: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a black former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a southern renegade who claims to be the town’s new Sheriff. Losing their lead on the blizzard, Ruth, Domergue, Warren and Mannix seek refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass. When they arrive at Minnie’s, they are greeted not by the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces. Bob (Demian Bichir), who’s taking care of Minnie’s while she’s visiting her mother, is holed up with Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the hangman of Red Rock, cow-puncher Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, our eight travelers come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock after all… (http://thehatefuleight.com/story)

The Hateful Eight is signature Tarantino – with all of the usual suspects, including long-time collaborator Samuel L. Jackson in a pulpy, violent and cuss-filled talkie. It’s been gloriously filmed for a colossal 70mm Panavision print – and is unabashedly as racist and misogynistic as you’d expect the post-civil war era to be.

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A man of many words, Tarantino – in typical Tarantino style – allows the plot to unfold through long and meandering conversations between the central eight players. Tarantino has a knack for creating theatrical and quotable monologues (often delivered with zeal by Samuel L. Jackson).

The Hateful Eight is part spaghetti western, part Agatha Christie whodunit. The characters are confined to a small space, that gets smaller and smaller as the tension mounts. The Hateful Eight resembles Reservoir Dogs, in that there’s a shady cast of characters with no real protagonist. In each film, the characters are confined to a small space – with the story playing out as it would in a stage play. It works really well for the type of story that Tarantino is telling.

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It’s gorgeously filmed with long and sweeping shots of the American Midwest, fantastic costumes and an absolutely fantastic score by king of western film scores, 87-year old Ennio Morricone – yes, THAT Once Upon A Time in the West Ennio Morricone.

Even with its excellent dialogue and build of tension, the film is long-winded – and a little drawn out in getting to the action. The first two acts of the film, which serve for setting the scene, take over an hour to get through. Because it’s so drawn out, there’s no real urgency once we finally do get to the all-out gore and violence conclusion (not quite a spoiler – it’s Tarantino – what more could we expect). There’s no surprise in how the film ends, but there’s some really great moments in the second half of the film, including a much talked about “Lincoln Letter”.

The cast is excellent – a truly diabolical ensemble – with Jennifer Jason Leigh giving a wicked (and deservedly nominated) performance as the spitting and swiping Daisy Dormegue. Walton Goggins also manages to add some real life (however despicable his character may seem) to the cast, and Samuel L. Jackson pontificates and curses his way through the film like no one else can. Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Demian Bechir and James Parks are all entertaining and perfectly cast for their respective roles in the snowed-in standoff – if anything, the only weak link in Hateful Eight’s top billed talent, is Tarantino-vet Michael Madsen, who barely manages to make an impression in a cast of over-the-top ruffians.

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The film is a little self-aggrandizing, over long (not many films require an intermission) – but it’s still an absolute must watch for Tarantino fans. It’s a film that only Tarantino could make.

The Hateful Eight is as mad, brutal and lawless as you’d expect the Wild, Wild West to be.

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