THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins
Going into a Quentin Tarantino film, the viewer can expect a few things: outrageously graphic content (sometimes in the best way possible), excitable characters (that may or may not be extremely quotable for years to come), and a well-written/structured plot (this has become more prominent over the last few projects). With his 8th film, The Hateful Eight, the director checks off all expected aspects, but a rash and overlong drama does not a perfect film make.
It's post-Civil War, but the wilds of Wyoming are still riding the lines of cowboy land and refined civilization. Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and John Ruth (Kurt Russell) are two bounty hunters, with very different styles. A happen-chance meeting between the two leads to a roundhouse adventure of words and wisdom at a cabin in the middle of nowhere as a blizzard rolls in. A cast of characters leads us on a riveting who-done-it, full of death, despair, and wicked dialogue.
Before rolling the film out into theaters everywhere, Tarantino, a naturally self-described lover of film history, released the picture in a special roadhouse-style event at 100 theaters around North America. The 70mm projection experience upped the ante of the overall style and scope of the film. With an overture and designated intermission, plus an extra 6 minutes of sweeping cinematic footage, The Hateful Eight as a filmgoing experience, is one-of-a-kind in the modern era (and will hopefully lead to future releases in a similar fashion). Unfortunately, this film, which feels more like a well-scripted play, doesn't quite do the experience justice.
Built on an array of star-making/star-reviving performances, The Hateful Eight fills each moment with such cleverly written dialogue that it's almost hard to keep up. Jackson and Russell hold almost the entire first half on their own, with a play-by-play fit for two acting old timers. Partnered up with a well-cast Jennifer Jason Leigh as the ruthless Daisy Domergue, Russell eats up every chance to be sinister and biting. It's when under-appreciated Walton Goggins shows up as Chris Mannix, a somewhat cowardly, but driven, new sherriff, the real fun begins. While Leigh may be earning the most Oscar buzz of her long career, Goggins deserves just as much praise for his engulfing portrayal.
Tarantino's script feels like a well-intentioned skeleton, filled with uneven pieces. While the content of any of his pictures aren't for the squeamish, there are stark moments here that seem to never fully feel worthy of our time. A scene in particular, right before intermission, serves to show Warren's unabashed reverence to living life day by day, without a care in the world, but comes across more heartless and less affecting than intended. We're left feeling overwhelmed, a little shocked, and scratching our heads.
No stone is left unturned in The Hateful Eight, with the three hour runtime full of plenty of memorable moments. As a film built on the love of a genre, and filmmaking in general, there is a sense of well-to-do that makes for a great conversation piece. There are clear moments of brilliance and beauty, especially in the handling of the material by the all-star cast. What the film lacks in structure, it makes up for in unabashed passion from all involved. There's no doubt this was a fun movie in which to be a part.
Not Tarantino's worst, but not his best. As a movie-going event, The Hateful Eight harkens to an era where films were more of a cultural icon. As a stand alone film, it feels overlong (especially the first half) and slow-paced. If anything, support this film in the hopes that it sparks interest in well-made, if culturally-relevant, pictures again.
Runtime: 168 minutes