The Hateful Eight

Beautiful, violent, and hysterical, if a bit self-indulgent.
★★★
Movie Review #1,043

hateful_eight_ver10

The Weinstein Company
Comedy, Drama, Mystery, Western
70mm version: 3 hours, 7 minutes
Digital version: 2 hours, 47 minutes
Rated R (strong bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity)
70mm version: Released December 25, 2015
Digital version: Released December 30, 2015
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Bruce Dern

John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) is headed to Red Rock, Wyoming, where he is taking Daisy “The Prisoner” Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh, delivering a brutally awesome performance), a fugitive with $10,000 on her head, to be hanged. They plan to make a stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery along the way, where they can stay warm for a while before heading out into the blizzard again. They pick up a hitchhiker, Major Marquis “The Bounty Hunter” Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a former soldier in the Union Army who is headed for Minnie’s Haberdashery. Sometime later, they pick up another hitchhiker, Sheriff Chris “The Sheriff” Mannix (Walton Goggins), who is headed for Red Rock so that he can be sworn in as sheriff upon arrival. When they get to their pitstop at the Haberdashery, the four of them encounter another set of four: Bob “The Mexican” (Demián Bichir), a stable worker; Oswaldo “The Little Man” Mobray (Tim Roth), the hangman for the town of Red Rock; John “The Cow Puncher” Gage (Michael Madsen), a cowboy heading to his mother’s for Christmas; and General Sandy “The Confederate” Smithers, a former soldier in the Confederate Army.

“The Hateful Eight” takes place during a blizzard, sometime after the end of the Civil War. Tarantino’s vision of this setting has come to fruition beautifully. I didn’t see the film projected in the 70mm format that Tarantino has championed, but even on digital 35mm, “The Hateful Eight” is absolutely, thoroughly gorgeous. We start on the sprawling, vast expanse of snow on the Western Frontier, and then move inward to the microcosm of Minnie’s Haberdashery. The cinematography, another necessary Oscar for three-time winner Robert Richardson, combines with costume and set designs to make this into a bona fide Western. In comparison, Tarantino’s previous film “Django Unchained” seems a joke. Better yet is the score by Ennio Morricone, best known for his music in Sergio Leone’s Westerns. His score is wonderfully cheesy, so powerful in that regard that we often feel like we’re watching one of Leone’s classic Westerns.

Minnie’s Haberdashery is craftily presented. This enclosed, unchanging space feels inexplicably like a stage. Fittingly enough, bodies pile up on the floor throughout the film’s second half like those in a Shakespearean tragedy. On paper, we’re used to that in a Tarantino film, but “The Hateful Eight” is most certainly his most violent film to date. You’ll consider yourself amazed that so much of the gratuity here is so cleverly played for laughs. Only in one scene–the chilling finale–does the onscreen carnage strike us as disturbing rather than humorous. What’s more, Tarantino has us choking on our laughter by mixing his stylistic violence with some of the most base humor imaginable. There’s a scene around the movie’s midsection where we watch several of the Hatefuls vomit blood after drinking poisoned coffee. The scene is so hilariously overdone, particularly with regard to the sternly macabre music that plays in the background, that it’s priceless.

None of this violence even arrives until over an hour into the movie. “The Hateful Eight” is divided into six “chapters.” It’s the latter three that evolve into a wonderfully chaotic clusterf—k of action and gratuity. Up until then, it’s suspense and building tension. Tarantino spends the first half of his newest movie–and much of the second–doing what he does best: talking. While I was taking notes on the movie, I couldn’t help myself from jotting down at least 9 or 10 different quotes that I absolutely loved. The dialogue here is as priceless as in any other Tarantino movie. But too much of anything can help rather than hurt. Tarantino is one of very few filmmakers who can let his characters ramble about unimportant matters and keep our undivided attention. His approach to writing dialogue in “The Hateful Eight” can be a little self-indulgent, though. Tarantino has edited the script since the notorious online leak of its first draft in January of 2014. Perhaps he should have edited it just a little more. There’s a good amount of dialogue during the film’s midsection that runs on so much as to disinterest the audience. Additionally, the finale arrives all to late thanks to more mindless chitchat. Yes, Tarantino has built some of the greatest scenes of his career on mindless chitchat. But perhaps he takes a little too much pride in that in “The Hateful Eight”.

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