'The Hateful Eight' is brash, beautifully bloody and sometimes a bit boring
There's a reason that all of the marketing for “The Hateful Eight” made sure to note that it was filmed in “glorious 70 mm” film and with widescreen, Ultra Panavision lenses: It's an absolutely beautiful sight to behold.
Quentin Tarantino's latest, which is appropriately his eighth film released, opens with a lonely stagecoach making its way along a snow blanketed trail in late-1800's Wyoming.
The technology is put to use right off the bat, as the rolling hills and expansive mountain ranges provide a picturesque setting for the titular characters to not only become acquainted with each other, but with the audience as well.
“Hateful Eight” features all of the classic Tarantino hallmarks, including his poetic dialogue, gratuitous “borrowing” from some of his favorite films and, of course, over-the-top violence. Narratively, it's his slowest film to date. There's a lot of talking, pondering and scheming, but the action is spread thin.
That may have to do with the fact that most of the plot takes place within the wooden walls of Minnie's Haberdashery, a lonely little spot located on the way to Red Rock, a town not too far away.
Normally, Tarantino's movies are as fast paced and spastic as he is, moving from location-to-location and country-to-country, but a blizzard forces the characters to stay put for a while.
While sluggish to start, the fixed setting allows for some strong character development to occur within the Eight. Through their interactions with one another, we slowly become aware of their personalities, their backstories and their motivations – some being more nefarious than others.
Major Marquis Warren, played by the eternally super cool Samuel L. Jackson, is a bounty hunter and former Union soldier en route to Red Rock to collect payment. He hitches a ride in the stagecoach with John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell), also a bounty hunter headed to Red Rock, and Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), his volatile and mysterious prisoner.
Eventually, Chris Mannix, (Walton Goggins, “Justified”), a quick-tempered and maladjusted Lost Causer, catches a ride. Mannix claims to be the new sheriff of Red Rock, and quickly butts heads with Warren, due to their disagreements (a term used lightly) about the Civil War.
When they arrive to Minnie's, we're then introduced to the other four: Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), a quiet cowboy, a British man named Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Gen. Smithers (Bruce Dern), a retired Confederate officer, and Bob (Demain Bichir), whom Minnie left in charge while she's away.
Each actor brings a larger-than-life performance to their character, with Jackson, Leigh and Goggins serving as the main standouts. Leigh has already received a well-deserved Golden Globe nod for her down, dirty and unhinged portrayal of Domergue, and Goggins is right at home as an eccentric Southerner with a penchant for dramatic flair.
As for Jackson, it wouldn't be a shock if Tarantino later reveals in one of his regularly entertaining and informative interviews that Maj. Warren is an Old West ancestor to Jules Winnifred from “Pulp Fiction.” Both are unflappable, intelligent and will strike a man down with great vengeance and furious anger if it feels necessary.
There's plenty to like about “Hateful Eight,” but, with the exception of “Back to the Future,” no movie is perfect.
Its near three hour runtime – over three hours if you saw one of the special roadhouse screenings of it in December – feels unwarranted considering its lack of scenery changes. The script's heavy reliance on expository dialogue sometimes creates a tedious experience for the audience, and may put the patience of some to the test.
There's also the liberal use of the n-word, which shouldn't surprise anyone who has ever seen a film written by Tarantino. Granted, both “The Hateful Eight” and his previous project “Django Unchained” are set in eras of our history that weren't known for stellar racial relations, so the characters frequent utterances of the word are historically accurate.
Even so, it doesn't really explain his penchant to unnecessarily throw around such a nasty term in his previous work. Personally, it just comes off as distracting, but that's conversation for another day. However, if you'd like to check out a detailed written history of the director's long-standing and controversial relationship with the n-word, Rich Juswiak's article for Gawker may be of interest to you.
Ultimately, “The Hateful Eight” is nowhere near as impactful as “Pulp Fiction,” or as masterfully suspenseful as “Inglourious Basterds,” but it's still another solid bullet point (pun very much intended) in Tarantino's resume.
Oh, and Channing Tatum has a cameo, so even if you don't like Tarantino, maybe that will be worth the admission price to you. If not, there's no shame in waiting for the DVD to come out.