The Hateful Eight

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To say I’m disappointed in Tarantino’s latest is an understatement. The Hateful Eight is such a departure from what Tarantino has done before in terms of quality, but a little bit too familiar in terms of how offensive it is, that the more I think about this movie the less and less I like it. I remember not being that enthused by the trailer; that the advertisement for 70mm was the most exciting part about it. Now that I’ve seen the movie, that unfortunately holds true.

Now, I remember in the early days of the blog going through Tarantino’s filmography. His was the first filmography I got through and to say I’m kind of attached to his films is pretty accurate. However, watching The Hateful Eight takes me back a couple years to when I still felt kind of uneasy with some of the stuff Tarantino was dishing out. It’s not news to anyone that Tarantino’s films features untold amounts of cruelty, violence, and revenge, but usually there’s some sort of redemption to balance it out, or try to. The Hateful Eight is appropriately named because even if the body counts don’t stack up like the other films, this film contains more hate than the rest of Tarantino’s films combined.

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The Hateful Eight is the story of western outlaws stuck together in one room during a blizzard. It starts on the road to the town of Red Rock, when a stage coach containing a bounty hunter named John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) pick up another bounty hunter named Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) and his three bounties. The stage is driven by a nice guy named OB (James Parks). The two bounty hunters grudgingly seem to trust each other, but this uneasy balance is disturbed by another passenger who claims to be the new Sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a marauder for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Considering Warren was basically his opposite during the war, they don’t get on too well at first.

When they finally reach Minnie’s Haberdashery, a half way point to Red Rock, they are surprised to discover that Minnie and her husband Sweet Dave are nowhere to be found. Warren, apparently a Minnie’s regular, finds it very peculiar that they would leave the place in care of a mysterious Mexican named Bob (Demian Bichir) and becomes more than a little suspicious. Also occupying the cabin are cowboy Joe Gage (Micheal Madsen), hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), and ex-Confederate General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern). These diverse types are all stuck in one room, trying to figure out each other’s motives and playing mind games.

(L-R) TIM ROTH and WALTON GOGGINS star in THE HATEFUL EIGHT. Photo: Andrew Cooper, SMPSP © 2015 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved.

To reveal the endgame of the plot would be very difficult, as it is not immediately apparent. Suffice it to say that Daisy Domergue serves as a sort of McGuffin throughout the story, though John Ruth has her, as the bodies start piling up it’s more and more difficult for people to claim the bounty on her. Also as the story progresses, the bounty on her becomes less important and everyone’s prejudices and hatreds take center stage.

Quentin Tarantino has been called indulgent before, but he truly deserves the criticism here. Not that he didn’t before, his films have always been on long and have leaned on the side of style rather than substance. If we look at some of his other films, at least the excessive revenge had a point. He often would give it a point through his manipulation of traditional story structure. Pulp Fiction is taken out of order precisely to leave us with a sense of redemption at the end, in a story that might not otherwise have any, but this film is nothing but emptiness and cruelty all the way through. There are a couple of clunky flashbacks but they do nothing to give the story more meaning at all, and that’s my problem with this movie.

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It’s not that there aren’t good things about it. As I said in the intro, I was very excited to see it in 70 mm and I’m very glad I got the opportunity. Even though the film, as it takes place in one room, might not avail itself of the format as one would expect, I still thought it looked really great. Of course, this might be more apparent in the landscape wides that start the film, but I still appreciated the indoor stuff too. You can see the snow floating in through what I can only assume are holes in the ceiling; it’s pretty amazing. The interior design of the room is pretty fantastic as well; it’s filled with stuff from wall to wall so it’s not like there’s nothing to look at inside. My point is, even though the 70mm has been called unnecessary by some, I still though it looked great.

As of right now, The Hateful Eight might be my least favorite Tarantino movie. Not only did I not appreciate the film’s apparent lack of point of view, but the dialogue was not as funny or memorable as other Tarantino films. It’s like we were getting a lot of the bad things about Tarantino’s style but not many of the good. It just depicts a lot of bad people doing bad things and hating each other, without offering us any sort of redemption for anyone or any lesson to be learned from it. I probably should give the film another look at some point, but for Tarantino’s next film I hope he goes back to his roots a bit.

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“Well, I’ll be double dog damned!”

Long story short: 2.5/4 stars

For Further Reading:

Rogerebert.com review
Vulture review
The Guardian review

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12 responses to “The Hateful Eight

  1. Nice review, and very well argued. I love the movie, but it is definitely splitting people down the middle somewhat.

    • Thanks! I definitely enjoyed it at some points and was able to appreciate a lot of things in it, but ultimately it didn’t come close to Tarantino’s other films. I’m glad you enjoyed it anyway, I wish I could have enjoyed it more 🙂

  2. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you’re point of view. A posted a similar review a few days ago but found very few who felt the same way. I do think QT ‘s allegiance to himself got in the way and killed much of this picture. His insistence on promoting his special brand and glorifying his particular style ultimately ruined what could’ve been a very unique and fresh QT picture. At least IMO.

    • Yeah, that’s basically how I felt while watching this movie. For me at least, Tarantino went too far with this one. I hope he is a bit more restrained in the next movie he does.

  3. Ouch. I really enjoyed the departure from his usually message driven narratives. The story is highly contained but I really enjoyed the way he created a post-Civil War bitterness from southern whites toward the freedom of Samuel L. Jackson’s character, in a way he was not just a bounty hunter but an embodiment of Black retribution. Nowhere near as powerful as Django but certainly worth a mention.

    • I might have been too put off by everything Tarantino was doing here to realize any sort of fresh commentary he was giving on slavery/ post-Civil War America, but it seemed to me to be pretty obvious stuff he was doing here and only there to offer a pretext for the violence. All of the characters, regardless of background, seem to be racist violent criminals, and (SPOILERS) as they all end up killing each other in the end, I’m not sure what we’re supposed to take from that. That was basically my problem with the movie.
      Maybe I’ll watch it again someday and revise my opinion, but for right now, I just can’t behind this movie.

      • I agree with the gentleman who commented before you here, and I loved the post cival war conversations etc. it was great to hear because it was delivered with that good ole Tarantino dialogue, though I definitely agree it did feel like a pretext for all the violence but only because Tarantino had to put violence in the because tarantino. Though I’m sure it could have gone another way, maybe like a chariot battle a la Ben Hur 😉 but yeah I felt extremely disappointed when I left the theater but I’ve grown to appreciate it more, but I don’t think it does justice for its lengthy run time. Still like it better than Death Proof though lol

        • Though I haven’t seen it again since I watched it the first time, I actually liked Death Proof. Mostly because of Zoe Bell, and I was happy to see her again here in a small role.
          Maybe I’ll see The Hateful Eight in another year or so and see all the things you guys saw but for now I just didn’t. :/

  4. I’m very glad I’m no longer an acolyte of the Church of Tarantino, because after this and Django Unchained I’d be having a serious crisis of faith right about now.

    • I still liked Django, though definitely the ending was way too much and dragged the movie down. Almost this entire movie is like that though. I hope he dials it back for his next movie.

  5. Nice review Hunter but I’m on the opposite side. I absolutely was bowled over by The Hateful Eight and found it to be amongst Tarantino’s best movies. I found the relationship between Jackson and Goggins’ characters to be a clever commentary on modern day racism and that the ending perhaps suggests that one day society will be able to put it behind.

  6. Thanks! As I said in other comments, it’s definitely possible I’m missing something in the film but I definitely didn’t see anything that looked like hope of overcoming racism. The sort of friendship that Jackson and Goggins have at the end is dampened by the fact that they are both united in the destruction of others, but I suppose it can be interpreted in different ways. I’d be open to revisiting it someday, but for right now the film just really didn’t do it for me. (Though I was glad to see the roadshow presentation.)

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