The Hateful Eight (2015)

the-hateful-eight-poster1The Hateful Eight is the uplifting tale of eight mean sons of bitches who find themselves stranded together during a blizzard at Minnie’s Haberdashery and take turns killing each other when they are not too busy reciting each others biographies.  The ensemble cast is headed up by Samuel L. Jackson as Gen. Marquis Warren, a former Union soldier whose now taken up bounty hunting, Kurt Russell (Escape from NY, The Fox and the Hound) as the vicious John ” The Hangman” Ruth.  Ruth is taking Daisy Domergue (played by the habitually abused Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hitcher, Heart of Midnight) into justice to be hanged.  The phenomenal Walton Goggins (The Shield, Justfied) plays as Chris Mannix, who dubiously claims to be the Sheriff and accompanies them to Minnie’s.
Our four leads are met with another group seeking shelter from the storm already in the Haberdashery, and they all have to stay together for the next two days.  Among the guests are Reservoir Dogs alumni Tim Roth as Oswaldo Moberry, who says he’s the town’s hangman and Micheal Madsen as the writer/cow-puncher Joe Gage.  Over the course of the travelers stay, Ruth and Warren quickly surmise someone in the group is there to rescue Domergue from reaching the hangman’s noose.  Their collective predicament isn’t helped by their own temperament and prejudices.

hateful-eight

One of the things I liked most about this film is that it’s a bit of a throwback to Reservoir Dogs, which is one of my favorite films by Tarantino.  The set up for both is lean and simple — a bunch of strangely sympathetic sociopaths with trust issues are locked in room together   and resort to violent extremes to survive and settle grudges.  It’s simplicity would lead one to think the film’s run time of over three hours is egregious, and they’d be correct in this assumption.  During the films intermission, I asked my fiancee if she was enjoying The Hateful Eight thus far and she said “I don’t know. Nothing has really happened”, and I responded, “Yeah, that’s the thing, it’s been ninety minutes and nothing’s happened”.  Tarantino loves to give his characters history and backstories, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  The problem that almost two hours of the films three hour run time is dedicated to characters giving oral histories of each other.  This type of storytelling is more suited toward novels, which is something Quentin should look into (which is probably something he has thought about, and quickly realized that a book written by him would eventually be made into a movie anyways so why not skip the middleman?).

Another issue I had with The Hateful Eight is that it’s introduction to the guests of the Haberdashery is handled a bit clumsily; Bruce Dern as the Confederate sits lazily in his chair by the fire place, Oswaldo is pouring drinks, and Joe Gage is writing his memoir. John Ruth goes up to them, one by one, in order to find out who they are.  The way this scene done is almost like Ruth is a character in an RPG that Tarantino is controlling, walking up to characters, and pressing “X” to initiate conversation.

hateful-eight-2015-billboard-650Samuel Jackson takes a lot of heat from people thinking his characters are nothing more than loudmouths who curse a lot, but Tarantino’s roles for Jackson consistently prove those criticisms impotent.  The Hateful Eight is no exception and is one of the first times I’ve seen Jackson in a lead role and he nails it.  Gen. Warren is a horrible person and his issues with the Confederate army are all hypocritical considering what we learn of Warren at the opening of the film, and what we see him do later.  Despite that, he’s the smartest guy in the room and we end up liking him, oddly enough.

Kurt Russell is Kurt Russell and turns the scenery to bubblegum by chewing it so hard;  but there are some little touches that I really liked to his character of John Ruth.  For all his brutality towards Daisy, he’ll do nice things for her that show he’s a gentleman at heart.  And when he finds out he’s been conned by someone he thought a friend, he’s genuinely hurt and isn’t afraid to admit it.

And then there is Walton Goggins, whose perfected the Southern racist with a good side down to a T by this point in his career.  His character of Chris Mannix is one of the best he’s ever gotten to play (second to Shane Vendrell) up to this point in his career and he proves himself very capable of holding his own.  Mannix’s claims of being sheriff may or may not be true, but you could see him being one at the films denouement.

Seeing The Hateful Eight in 70mm was a cool experience and is the way I suggest to see it if you can.  It comes with a cool souvenir booklet to commemorate this experience.  The Hateful Eight isn’t Tarantino’s best film, but Tarantino on his worst day is still light years better than most films coming out.  The soundtrack is also killer, featuring some new Ennio Morricone, and a pivotal track by David Hess from the Last House on the Left.  The finale of the film is clearly a homage to John Carpenter’s The Thing.  There is also, what I felt to be, a bit of a Bava’s Black Sabbath influence during the final shot of Daisy Domergue (here’s hoping Tarantino makes a giallo one day).  Though The Hateful Eight has some very unfortunate weakness and suffers because of Tarantino’s unawareness/apathy of his own self-indulgence, it is still one of the best films of the year.

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