Director : Quentin Tarantino
Writer : Quentin Tarantino
The Hateful Eight starts nice and slow, reminiscent of a time when movies allowed you to breath before the action starts. It opens on a stage coach plowing through the snow of Wyoming. The passengers are John Ruth (Kurt Russell), a bounty hunter and his still alive prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Along the way they pick up Major Warren ( Samuel. L. Jackson ) a bounty hunter who prefers his customers dead and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) who claims to be the new sheriff at Red Rock.
The dynamic in the back of the stagecoach is a master class in establishing characters. Tarantino’s script crackles and uses divisions of race, sense of justice and which side of the Mason –Dixon line they come from to create a criss-cross of conflict and potential alliances that fuels the story to come.
The chasing blizzard force them to hole up at 'Minnie's Haberdashery'. Propietor Minnie is not there, but four strangers are. Are one or some of them lying in wait to free Daisy? How many of them are just plain lying? John Ruth and Major Warren form an alliance of sorts and make their presence felt. Ruth is quite keen to know everyone name, but with no photo id or social media profile to verify, it seems like more of a way to establish his dominant handshake and blue eyed stare than anything else. Major Warren stands back a little and observes. He's a colonial Hercule Poirot, alternately charming and challenging his suspects, but while Agatha Christie was fond of a genteel conclusion in a drawing room, this is Tarantino's old west where blood flows more readily than English breakfast tea..
The Haberdashery is one big room with a kitchen, a bar and scattered tables and chairs. The blizzard has them confined and the mood is claustrophobic. The staging allows the audience to see the foreground and the background, but the characters can't watch their own backs. Before long the suspicion transitions into violence and as the blood flows like a waterfall, with it goes the tension and any sense of reality.
In Reservoir Dogs, the camera averted its eyes from the worst atrocities, but in The Hateful Eight, Tarantino forces us to watch the bloodletting with Panavision eyes wide open. The sense of inevitability to it all undermines the build-up.
The script serves Samuel. L. Jackson well. He gets top billing and goes full Jules in several stirring monologues and gets to show his range when he turns down the volume, but everyone else is forced to dish out racial slurs and much of the violence has a misogynist lean. While Tarantino may well be proving a point and thumbing his nose at the modern politically correct world, that doesn't make it go down any easier.
Tarantino jumped the shark when he killed Hitler in Inglorious Basterds. Re-imagining history is fine, but there are some things that don't need to be revisited, amplified and screamed from the rooftops. You wonder if it's self sabotage or a lack of restraining voices in the development process, but either way, this is half an excellent movie and the main takeaway from it is that Tarantino films no longer feel essential.
Not Required Viewing