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Ka-Tet's Movie Review: The Hateful Eight
Once again, Quinton Tarantino has descended to Earth to live amongst us mortals for a while, and he brought with him a new masterpiece.
It centers around Kurt Russell's John "The Hangman" Ruth, a bounty hunter bringing his charge (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the town of Red Rock, Wyoming for hanging. Along the way their stage coach encounter another bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and a Southern Civil War sympathizer (Waltin Goggins) who claims to be the new Sheriff of Red Rock. With a blizzard hard on their heels, the group has no choice but to seek shelter at an isolated mountain stage coach stopover, where they encounter four strangers. As the night progresses, the likely hood of anyone making it to Red Rock becomes more and more remote.
The 8th film from Tarantino (which I guess confirms that Kill Bill Vol 1 and 2 are meant to be one movie, because otherwise it would be 9th) doesn't so much explode onto the screen as it does develop, similar to watching a Polaroid snap shot slowly reveal it's image. It's a different feel for the director, who usually explodes in your face like a more refined Michael Bay.
I've said before that Tarantino movies are an acquired taste, you either enjoy his signature brand of humor, action and over-the-top violence, or you don't, so writing a review about this movie seems largely a waste of time. Either you are a fan, and will agree wholeheartedly with all my points, or you are not, in which case my review is likely not going to miraculously change your mind and make you think, "My God, I've been wrong this whole time!" and rush out to see it.
I only wish I was that persuasive.
Yes, I'm a fan, (Thanks once again go out to friend Patrick Richardson for sitting me down to watch Reservoir Dogs on laserdisc all those years ago) so you know where I'm gonna come down on this, but I've always tried to be an honest fan and an honest reviewer. If you're not a fan, but were willing to brave the review this far, hear me out.
Tarantino knows film. He's watched enough of them, good, bad and ugly, to know what works and what doesn't. Like us, he has an affinity for the occasional bad movie (how else can you explain Grindhouse?) Like us, he knows what he likes even if no one else gets it. Honestly, I'll take Tarantino over a paint-by-numbers director any day of the week, because whatever I get, it'll will be passionate.
The Hateful Eight is no exception. Far more of a traditional western than his spaghetti western inspired Django Unchained, it matches the feel of his first film Reservoir Dogs with the pacing of Death Proof. That is to say, it takes a group of interesting characters, drops them into one location and lets the plot simmer until it inevitably boils over.
Among these interesting characters is John Ruth (and check out Kurt Russell's mustache. Just bathe in the glory of all it's majesty. It's like his face looked back on his Tombstone brush and said, "fuck that noise, look what I got here") who could just shoot his bounty and call it good, but prefers to deliver them alive and watch them hang. He's not exactly a good guy.
Samuel L. Jackson's Major Marquis Warren is a former Yankee civil war officer with a checkered record. Also not quite a hero. And these are the two protagonists of the picture.
By the time we're holed up in Minnie's Haberdashery (and mad bonus points for using the word Haberdashery), and the rest of the unsavory low life's begin to stir, you know things are gonna go down hill. Hell, it's a Tarantino flick, you knew that from the get go. It's just a question of when.
Here is where the film unspools slowly and deliciously, like the tavern scene in Inglorious Basterds on steroids. But where that scene still left us a way out, (suspicious or not, the spies could have left the bar at anytime and left the Nazis to it) the Haberdashery is isolated. It's on top of a mountain, in Wyoming, in a blizzard. There is NO WHERE to escape to. These folks are gonna be trapped together for DAYS. The setting truly lends to the sense of isolation and tension these people feel.
Eventually, the movie becomes a who-done-it (or who's gonna do it) as we're invited to scrutinize the motives and actions of everyone present. And as this game of Clue reaches the end (and the seemingly inevitable blood bath, this is a Tarantino flick, after all), you find yourself hoping for just a little more, despite the extended running length.
Speaking of the running length (3hr, 8min for the roadshow edition with a 12 minute intermission) While I haven't seen the standard release yet, I cant imagine not seeing this film they way it was intended, in 70mm. Again, Tarantino's love of film shines through, by shooting and releasing a movie that hasn't been seen in this format since the 60s.. Sure, a drawing room mystery may seem an odd choice for the big format of 70mm, but it's the contrast of the wide open expanses outside and the claustrophobic inside that work. Because even if you could get out, the only thing waiting for you is the blizzard.
It's beautifully shot, one of Tarantino's finest and technically proficient directing efforts. The overture and intermission lend to the feel of immersing yourself in a movie of the past. And looking back up over your shoulder to see the familiar blue flickering light coming out of the projectionist window is in itself oddly reassuring.
Of special note is the score by Ennio Morricone, who delivered not the traditional western score, (you're expecting The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly) but instead brought a more refined, methodical sound more along the lines of a horror film (think The Shinning). This score WILL be nominated come Oscar time.
Final word, while it's not Tarantino's best, it's among them. And it's worth seeing if for no other reason that the feeling of old Hollywood it evokes.