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The Hateful Eight - Tarantino, The Hateful Great
Quentin Tarantino is, if nothing else, a filmmaker with a very distinct style. You can spot Tarantino-isms, and if you hear news of his next project, you can figure out what you’d think of it right then and there. He is always divisive, but in many circles he can get away with murder and the movie will still be a hit. Few other filmmakers can do that anymore (The Coen Brothers maybe?). The reason is simple, Quentin Tarantino is a genius in his own way. Nobody writes dialogue in Hollywood like he does, and because of that he gets away with all the talking that’s in his movies (I realize a lot of folks thought Pulp Fiction was a total bloodbath, but re-watch it sometime, the characters are chattier than you remember). At the same time, his violence is so stylized, and unique, and so he gets away with killing off a good deal of his characters, and killing many of them off in bizarre ways.
A criticism of Tarantino that is bought up every now and again is that not all of his works are the most mature films in the whole world. Something like Kill Bill or Inglorious Basterds offers a very cartoonish perspective of the world around them, and yet, Tarantino is a master of dialogue and direction, and so he gets away with it. I felt this criticism watching his previous film, Django Unchained (a film that I will admit to needing to re-watch), but did not during his latest effort, The Hateful Eight. The Hateful Eight is one of the most mature films the auteur has put out in his career. It offers a meditation on a culture obsessed with violence, and a culture built on racism, all through a cleverly crafter, stage-play like whodunit western.
Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson, demonstrating his mastery of his craft for the first time in a while) hitches a stagecoach ride with John Ruth (Kurt Russell, gloriously mustached) and his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Immediately Tarantino thrusts us into a culture that justifies violence of all sorts, and the viewer knows what they’re in for. Eventually they make their way to Minnie’s Haberdashery to stay there with a slew of scummy sorts. You might think that Tarantino not writing a character for us to really relate to is bad screenwriting, but the actions of the characters serve as a representation of the culture that created them.
The racism of these characters is blatant from the get-go, and what Hateful Eight strives to prove are two things, that “black folks are only safe when white folks is disarmed” (or that racism is built from a longtime refusal to accept black people unless they’re properly vetted by a white person) and that our regarding them as violent savages can eventually become a self-fulfilling prophecy. One might think Marquis is the protagonist, but the movie provides a plethora of reasons as to why he isn’t, and that is part of where the genius of Tarantino’s script and Jackson’s performance lie. Marquis is a product of his environment, doing what he knows keeps him alive and satisfied despite morality.
The Hateful Eight is a bleak work, and a masterstroke from a visionary at the top of his game. Some minute problems aside (there’s some green-screen at times where it seems inappropriate, especially for the kind of movie Hateful Eight is trying to be) it is one of the most enriching, engaging experiences one could have in a movie theater in 2015. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely an important work.