Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks, Dana Gourrier, Zoe Bell, Lee Horsley, Gene Jones, Keith Jefferson, Craig Stark, Belinda Owino, Channing Tatum
Written for the screen and directed by: Quentin Tarantino
IMDb Score: 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes Score:
Winner of One Academy Award for Best Music (Ennio Morricone). Nominated for 3 Academy Awards including Best Cinematography (Robert Richardson) and Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Jason Leigh)
Rated R for strong bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.
There are a number of directors that I look forward to watching their work: Terence Malick, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, The Coen Brothers are examples.
But very few directors film’s are considered “event” status films. Films that are etched into a calendar in anticipation months, sometimes years, in advance. I can think of two off the top of my head: James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino.
Cameron because he does amazing visual work in his films, that’s easy. Tarantino is mainly because when he does a movie, it’s going to be a different experience than his previous work.
For example, Django Unchained is different than Inglorious Basterds, which is also much different than the Kill Bill movies.
The Hateful Eight is interesting solely because, like The Vega Brothers, it’s been a long talked about, gestating screenplay he’s been working on. Does the time spent on the film show?
Set in post Civil War Wyoming, John Ruth (Russell) is a bounty hunter who is transporting wanted woman Daisy Domergue (Leigh) to Red Rock so he can collect his bounty and she can hang. A blizzard happens, which traps them with 6 other people in Minnie’s Haberdashery: Mjr. Mark Warren (Jackson), Joe Gage (Madsen), Sheriff Chris Mannix (Goggins), Bob (Bichir), Oswaldo Mobrey (Roth) and General Sandy Smithers (Dern). Ruth soon realizes that there may be someone here who is in cahoots with Domergue in trying to release her.
Let’s get this out of the way: This is a good western movie directed by Quentin Tarantino. When putting in the context of westerns, it’s a different take the same types of stories that populate most westerns: outlaws, bounty hunters, gangs and questionable morality.
This films feels like a less epic, more personal version of The Wild Bunch in that way. Or, an 8-way The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Like all of Tarantino’s films, he wears his love of certain types of films on his sleeve and puts his own over-the-top (bloody) spin on it and it’s entertaining.
As a film in the Tarantino filmography, however: this is not one of his best. Better than Death Proof and Kill Bill Vol. 1, The Hateful Eight is entertaining, but doesn’t do anything that spreads his range of cinematic tricks. In fact, it’s the first film of his that the feeling of deja vu hits pretty hard.
This film is essentially reverse Reservoir Dogs with a small dash of Django Unchained. There are obvious set-pieces that can remind you of these films, but the set-up feels entirely too familiar.
Yet, what makes a Tarantino film special is it’s writing. When it comes to dialogue, the film is solid gold. As usual, Tarantino gives most, if not all, of his characters great dialogue to make the happenings of the film feel just as hip and as smart as his other films.
Then again, there’s a real problem with this screenplay: the way the plot flows is downright bad. There really isn’t a reason why the film flows the way it does and why it’s as long as it is.
The film is full of plot contrivances: total coincidences just to advance plotlines, fractured time that feels unnecessary, plot advancements that give no reason for it to move forward to just only move forward and probably the most amateurish of them: a sudden narrator that shows up halfway through the film just to shore up plot and character development.
In fact, looking back at the film: Why was this 3 hours long? For the admittedly impressive landscape shots of them traveling through snow? For the whole set-up process of introducing the characters, which took over an hour to get to? To keep a tension in the film, which is preposterous because that initial “tension” doesn’t start until around the 1 hour, 35 minute mark when they introduce the whole concept of there being a mole?
To put it bluntly: the screenplay plot set-up is a mess, which is incredibly surprising from a writer/director that keeps his movies tight.
The performances do help the cause however. The mainstays of Tarantino: Jackson, Roth, and Madsen put up solid performances in the film. Russell also gives a darkly hilarious performance as Ruth, while Leigh does her best to act like a crazy woman who is constantly getting pummeled by Russell and Jackson. Man, does she get bloody in this film.
But the stand-out performance is Walton Goggins, who plays racist Sheriff Chris Mannix. He really gets the most out of this screenplay and character (mainly because he’s the one who has the most character) and puts up an excellent performance that is the highlight of the eight main actors.
Though, I will say, watching Samuel L Jackson get a blowjob is one of the most hilarious and most glorious things he’s done. Seriously, it’s something else.
So, as an anti-established western film, it’s a solid and entertaining movie. As a Tarantino film, it’s an okay film that treads familiar territory and has some of the worst plot devices he’s used.
Look, if you’re a Tarantino fan, you have or will watch this movie, but it is one that shows a chink in the creative armor when it comes to Tarantino’s boldness and use of framing a plot: something he usually is exceptional at.
It’s a disappointment, but it’s watchable. It’s also overlong.
It’s like a popcorn flick created by Quentin Tarantino.
The Wiz Says #62