“The name of the game is patience.”
Hate! Hate! Hate! Not too long after the Civil War, the state of Wyoming is home to a myriad of characters, all nefarious and dangerous. On the way to the town of Red Rock, bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) rides in a stagecoach which is transporting a woman named Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Daisy is a fugitive who will be put to death by hanging in Red Rock. Making their ride up difficult is a relentless blizzard that promises to only get worse.
Along the way, fellow bounty hunter and former Civil War participant Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), and new Red Rock sheriff Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins), hitch a ride to the same stagecoach. Eventually, though, that snow storm forces the foursume to seek refuge at a local cabin. It is there where they run into more characters—“Mexican” Bob (Demián Bichir), Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). Only one thing is certain amongst these people: They are all bad people.
As of this writing, it has been almost 48 hours since yours truly has come out of Quentin Tarantino’s latest feature, known as The Hateful Eight. And, I still don’t fully know how I feel about it. On one hand, it is blueprint Tarantino, infusing his irreverent trademark style in every piece of the movie. On another hand, it can feel like the work of a man feeling himself a little too much, reveling in those Tarantinoisms that don’t feel as inventive and unique as in previous works.
Aside from the script leak, the usual uproar of whether Tarantino is going too far, and the roadshow/70mm intention, the biggest story talking point going into “H8teful “seemed to be its over three-hour runtime. Could QT, one of the best writers of dialogue today in film, quell the concern about length? The answer is no…and yes. It really does take some time for his Western to get going, and to give a quantifiable number, I’d say about 60-90 minutes. While one could say that he is building character, I struggle to remember any key lines, or tidbits of information that moved the story along and/or gave more elements to those characters. It is possible that another watch is needed.
Still, this stretch is where to look for any material that could have, and probably should have, been cut. But, that isn’t to say that The Hateful Eight is devoid of good writing, because it isn’t. Character-wise, these are really nothing but extremely vile people, though some entertaining (yet dulling over time) dialogue does exist. It, like the gratuitous violence, is more for shock value than anything else. But, Tarantino manages to surround these villains with a highly entertaining script that takes primary focus around the second act. Yes, it is a whodunit, but Tarantino uses a few plot mechanics—even his own narration—to fill some gaps. It is likely that the narration could be jarring to some, but it really adds to the old school style and live play aspect.
H8teful achieves a little bit more than not because it is simply an experience. Yours truly didn’t have the pleasure of seeing in 70mm, but this is one of the more unique watches in quite some time. The locale is amazing, and it being predominantly set in a cabin gives a truly confined and claustrophobic touch. As the runtime goes on, Tarantino’s technical work does begin to shine. Not flawlessly, but the film is a great example of sum greater than its parts. Speaking of parts, Ennio Morricone does his by providing an original score that captures the era of the Spaghetti Western. It is that mesmerizing, and potentially the strongest piece of the entire feature.
The characters in The Hateful Eight may really be nothing more than caricatures, but that doesn’t mean that the actual work turned in by the thespians is to be scoffed at. Samuel L. Jackson does his Samuel L. Jackson thing here, but there’s a tad more meat than many of his other roles in Tarantino films. Kurt Russell may be the most entertaining individual in the entire production, which is a surprise seeing as where he begins at the start. Other great performances include Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Walter Goggins, Bruce Dern, Demián Bichir, and Michael Madsen. At times, they can go a ton over the top, but that is attributed to QT writing more than a performer not knowing what to do.
Starting to see the picture? As odd as it sounds, I’m interested in watching The Hateful Eight again, just to see if there is anything that was missed, any dialogue that went over the head, etc. Very possible this opinion can change down the line with more views. On a first, it isn’t without flaws, or absent of merit. About the only thing I know is that it is a very memorable experience.
Photo credits go to huffingtonpost.com, filmmakermagazine.com, and latimes.com
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