|Title:||The Hateful Eight|
|Starring:||Samuel L. Jackson,
Jennifer Jason Leigh,
|Genre:||Western, Action, Drama,|
|Runtime:||2 Hours 47 mins|
|Studio:||The Weinstein Company|
|Release Date:||US: Dec 25 2015
UK: Jan 08 2016
|See If You Like:||Django Unchained,|
What’s so hateful about a moustached bounty hunter anyway?
Quentin Tarantino’s back in the director’s chair and this time he’s tackling the western genre of cinema with his own unique brand of filmmaking. This time, we see the man behind Pulp Fiction & Inglorious Bastards tackle racism in a time of uncertainty in the American wild west… hang on a minute, didn’t he cover that last time with Django Unchained? Yes, Tarantino follow up a project with a not too dissimilar setting from the last one, although this time he covers the old western trope of heroes, outlaws and bounty hunters being cooped up together in a cabin as The Hateful Eight fires into cinemas.
John Ruth (Kurt Russell, Furious 7), better known as ‘The Hangman’, is a bounty hunter transporting murderer Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anomalisa) to justice, on a private stage coach through a mountain range in Wyoming with a blizzard on their trail. They come across stranded fellow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson, Avengers: Age Of Ultron) & lost Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins, American Ultra), as Ruth reluctantly agrees to let the pair on his ride. The four & the coach driver soon arrive at a rest stop – Minnie’s Haberdashery – to wait out the blizzard for a few days before going to the town of Red Rock for individual reasons of bounties, hangings and law bringing. Something is amiss at Minnie’s though, as the usual staff are gone and in their place are a motley collection of frontiersmen, including a Confederate war hero (Bruce Dern, Nebraska), a cowboy going home for Christmas (Michael Madsen, Hawaii Five-0), an Englishman executioner (Tim Roth, Selma) and a Mexican caretaker (Demian Bichir, Dom Hemingway). As the blizzard rages on, the cut off group begin to turn on one another as stories are exchanged, ideals clash & passions ride high.
‘Typical Tarantino’ is a term that is maybe too easy to staple to this film and be done with, but it suits The Hateful Eight quite well. Old friends turn up again to work and Quentin gets ever bead of sweat and drop of blood that he can out of every performer. Jackson is back at his best with praise to both his serious monologing and comedic timing Russell is a complete badass that commands both respect and fear with just how far he will go to see a good law upholding hanging. Perennial Good Fim Guide editorial favourite Goggins is a lucky, lucky boy to get involved with Tarantino as he displays just how far he can take his hick acting ability to new levels of brilliance. A sympathetic character arc, Dern emotes a certain kind of charm reserved for war veterans as you’re left hanging onto every word like any good story teller. The old violence notch is dialled up to 11 by the film’s end with plenty of excellent practical effects with notable amounts of blood letting supporting the ball shootings and head explosions nicely. The actual interior set of Minnie’s Haberdashery is a cosy one with a lived in feel and comfortable atmosphere, brilliantly at odds with it’s habitants. Complimenting the cabin is some rather stunning visual cinematography of the glorious wintery & snow covered landscape of Colorado (in place of Wyoming) that you don’t usually expect Tarantino to handle as good as he can. Costumes range from comically appropriate for a stereotype bad guy from the era to eerily accurate depictions of Civil War forces. Using his connections, Quentin manages to coax iconic Western film composer Ennio Morricone to return to the silver screen in a subtle yet rapturous score. Make no mistake – whilst I am about to indulge myself with specific problems from a screenplay, repetitious nature, dialogue and female representation point of view, everything else Quentin Tarantino nails perfectly that immerses yourself nicely for the long haul of the runtime.
I think a big problem with Hateful Eight is that most of it you’ve seen before with Tarantino. Jackson shoots up someone after an antagonising speech. Madsen is the wildcard in proceedings, that keeps his cards close to his chest. Appendages are blown off. Blood flies everywhere. Swearing and racial slurs are the order of the day. Those elements are all fine but when there is not a single piece of innovation in a directorial style after the previous offering, it comes across as stagnant. When Quentin’s best source of stepping up his game is to feature hilariously shit slow motions, he has a problem in the old creativity department. In fairness, we do see the welcome return of Tarantino cast members for the first time in a good while in Roth’s case, with an enjoyable if underwritten role, but it’s hardly anything new.
The whole flashback chapter was really unnecessary. You could remove it completely and you would have the same result as it does not take much intelligence or foresight to figure out the set up for the finale. Hell, it would make the rather lengthy runtime of Hateful Eight flow much better. The only real purpose I can figure out for it’s inclusion – apart from expanding on a very notable cameo – is to callback to the out of order plot structure of previous Quentin films. There are moments in the last few of his films that Tarantino could really have done with a strong editor saying “No cut this out Quentin. It would help the film alot”, although you can understand him not associating himself with that kind of people. Between this and that self-indulging final quarter of an hour before the finale of Django Unchained and you begin to wonder if old Quentin is starting to lose touch with how well a plot flows & progresses.
Similarly, I doubt following up an excellent western style film in Django Unchained with another offering of the genre that is not as good as it’s predecessor is a particularly clever move. Okay it’s not as if they have come out one year after the other but it walks a similar path. Race is a big issue that binds characters together or against our heroes. Shoot outs are often bloody & violent. The scene setting is appropriately accurate, so you’re not left wondering what genre you’re experiencing. All well and good but I would have thought a fan of cinema like Tarantino would be more adventurous in his next project rather doing a traditional ‘cabin fever’ western movie.
Mind you, what tropes we do have from westerns are displayed brilliantly. I loved the at odds Warren & Bruce Dern’s Smithers speaking to one another through the hapless Mannix before manning up and sitting down opposite one another to discuss the world & politics. If Tarantino ever decides to do a full-on American Civil War film, I’d be keen to do it as he gets the ideologies of both sides down so well. Without spoiling the plot of Hateful Eight, the old storylines of heroes falling into a trap set by the outlaws or bad guys having our protagonist at their mercy in a remote cabin suits the genre so well that you can’t really do it outside of it. The look and feel of the various six shooters and shotguns used deliver a weighty impact when fired. Whilst it’s treading the same path, I can’t really fault The Hateful Eight for being as great as a western it is.
Outside of one or two passionate filled deliveries, I don’t feel the usual brilliant dialogue exchanges are that good in this Tarantino outing. For once, usually gripping, played out exchanges are bereft of tension and are drawn to exertion in places. Depending on which actor is speaking, you will either be gripped to your seat in fear of what’s about to happen or struggling to keep awake. You will notice he does the ‘repeating of dialogue in disbelief’ gag about three times and it stands out like a sore thumb. We get it Quentin; one of your character can’t quite believe a statement they just heard so they have to break it down and sound like a broken record repeating it back until they can come to terms. It’s fine once but those other two times really grinded on me. The ‘nailing the door shut’ joke also suffers badly with it’s repetitious nature. A lack of variance in the script lets the Eight down somewhat.
It may sound strange to criticise a director of poor female representation for giving us three features previously about ladies standing up for themselves in a man’s world or seeking revenge for wrong done to them, but christ Tarantino lets himself down massively here. Sure, it’s the post-Civil War frontier days of the old Wild West and the opposite sex were not on the same standing as males but that does not excuse the horrifically bad female showing here. I’m not too bothered about Daisy Domergue to a point as she’s said to be a horrible human being who steals and kills, but even I didn’t find the constant misfortune of what happens to her to be amusing as she is the only real female cast member, not to mention she is constantly being smacked about, elbowed in the face and slammed into the nearest piece of wood by Ruth. In the flashback, you get literally 5-10 minutes of over-charismatic Tarantino stuntwoman flunkey Zoe Bell (Oblivion) as the only woman in these ‘ere parts who can drive a six horse stage coach and Minnie herself turning out to be an African American who owns her the rest stop but they get written out rather quickly. There is not one woman of major importance who can be said to be treated on the same level or above that of any of the many men featured and that is a real disappointment.
Upon reflection, I’m still not too sure what to think of The Hateful Eight. There is no real element that comes up to Tarantino’s best work and yet it’s nowhere near a bad or below average film. At times it feels like a patchwork ‘Best of’ Tarantino’s directorial tropes – for better or worse – with no real attempt at innovating his craft. He does deliver on his usual top notch brand of violence and direction but the script could have done with another fresh pair of eyes. Mildly annoying elements of plotting & repetition aside, that terrible female representation is pretty tragic for someone who has done so well previously. Eight as an experience was lacking in certain important areas but it won’t matter to Tarantino’s legions of hardcore fans.
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