Whatever your opinion of the violent and foul-mouthed films of Quentin Tarantino, I think we can agree that they are nothing if not ambitious. A lesser Tarantino effort is still vastly more interesting than most of the product Hollywood churns out nowadays. Unsurprisingly, his eighth flick as a director, The Hateful Eight—a three-hour western-mystery opus full of juicy dialogue, energetic performances and copious amounts of blood—is no exception.
Sometime in Wyoming after the end of the Civil War, a stagecoach traveling to Red Rock and carrying a bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) and his bounty (Jennifer Jason Leigh), grudgingly stops to collect a fellow bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and, subsequently, Red Rock’s new sheriff (Walton Goggins). A blizzard bearing down on them, they manage to find shelter at a stagecoach stopover, which currently contains four other men (Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and Demián Bichir).
Tarantino divides the story into chapters, and at least the first couple stay with the stagecoach as it makes its way and Russell and Jackson bond over Jackson’s letter from Abraham Lincoln and Goggins agitates everybody. Suffice to say it’s the best-looking part of the film, with Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson beautifully capturing the snowy (Colorado) landscape, and justifying Tarantino’s want to shoot the thing in 70mm.
Once the characters reach the stopover, Minnie’s Haberdashery, Tarantino turns the film into his version of “Ten Little Indians,” with the untrusting-of-each-other characters trapped inside the log building, and the use of 70mm suddenly seems unwarranted and wasted. Tarantino nonetheless proves adept at mixing up the angles and keeping the action interesting, and gets some amusing mileage out of people having to constantly kick the nailed-shut door open every time they enter.
Of course, it helps that Tarantino not only writes some delicious dialogue—this includes the names of some of the characters, including Leigh’s but especially Roth’s, which Tarantino has characters utter repeatedly—but gets a cast that can deliver it right. Jackson’s easily the most engaging, and gets a speech that rivals Christopher Walken’s in Pulp Fiction. Russell follows close behind, all grizzled temperament and wild facial hair—the fur-coated John Wayne of the bunch.
Goggins, who delivered similarly choice dialogue with entertaining ease as Boyd Crowder on FX’s Justified, seems right at home with Tarantino’s words, to the point of nearly stealing the show. Leigh herself creates a wonderfully nasty little spitfire of a woman (whom Russell keeps bashing in the face), and she and Russell forge an effortlessly natural, and amusing, chemistry. Just watch what he does after Leigh performs a rendition of “Jim Jones at Botany Bay.”
Hate Tarantino films because of all the bloodshed and profanity? Then you’ll hate this one, too. All the characters, naturally, shoot each other—one gets it point blank in the head, which disintegrates—and at least one throws up blood on another. Jackson frequently gets a certain nasty word lobbed at him, and Leigh another. My only quibble is Channing Tatum, whose typical tone-deaf acting here didn’t ruin the movie for me so much as make me hate people who keep casting him in movies. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 3/29/16