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.
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.
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.
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.
“Well, I’ll be double dog damned!”
Long story short: 2.5/4 stars
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