Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Movie Review: "The Hateful Eight"

I don't know what it says about me that Quentin Tarantino's movies don't really shock me anymore. That's not to say that they've gotten boring, or he's suddenly decided to make a family-friendly Disney musical (that would be something to see), it's just that I've come to expect certain things from one of his movies—cool music; foul and racist language; violence; and, of course, gore. But even though his films have these features, how he weaves them together is part of what makes them truly Tarantino-esque.

The Hateful Eight is Tarantino's eighth film. It takes place in Wyoming after the Civil War, in the dead of winter. A blizzard is on its way. Legendary bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is riding in a stagecoach, handcuffed to the notorious Daisy Domergue (a zany Jennifer Jason Leigh), whom he plans to take to the town of Red Rock so she can hang for her crimes, and he can collect the $10,000 reward. But with the blizzard arriving any minute, he plans a pit stop at Minnie's Haberdashery, so the pair can sit out the storm.

On the way, John and Daisy encounter a lone figure in the blizzard, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a famed Union soldier, another bounty hunter who was once hunted himself by the Confederate Army. After a tense exchange, Ruth agrees to let Warren ride along with him and Daisy, although he's not entirely convinced Warren isn't planning to steal his prisoner.

Ruth's suspicion of Warren doesn't lessen when the stagecoach encounters another lone figure in the blizzard, namely Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), the son of a famed Confederate vigilante, who claims he is the new sheriff of Red Rock, so he needs to get to town so Daisy can hang and Ruth can collect his reward. Ruth thinks Mannix's claims are dubious, but he wants that $10,000 reward, so he lets Mannix ride along as well.

When they arrive at Minnie's they learn they're not the only ones who thought about waiting out the storm. They encounter a motley crew: Bob (Demián Bichir), one of Minnie's employees; Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth, playing the Christoph Waltz role), Red Rock's resident hangman; the mysterious John Gage (Michael Madsen); and Confederate General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern).

And then The Hateful Eight completely flips the script. While the first half of the film is a little slow and calm (by Tarantino standards), the second half never stops. And that is where the movie really catches steam, and tries to out-Tarantino itself from time to time.

The Hateful Eight was filmed in 70mm, and at the theaters across the country that are showing the movie in that way, there's even a 20-minute intermission. It's really worth the investment—the cinematography is outstanding and panoramic, even if most of the movie doesn't leave the inside of Minnie's Haberdashery.

Like so many of Tarantino's movies, much of the acting is pretty spot-on. Jennifer Jason Leigh gives one of her best performances in years, sassy, taunting, and tough, but vulnerable at moments as well. Roth is very funny, as is Goggins, and Russell mixes bravado and paranoia to hilarious effect. I'm not always a fan of Jackson's performances in recent years, because I think his bluster can overwhelm at times where some shading or nuance would be more appropriate, but I thought his usual kick-ass stuff worked perfectly here.

While I don't think The Hateful Eight rises to the level of some of Tarantino's other films, it's still quite good once it gets rolling. If you're a Tarantino fan, or if you've no problem with more-than-liberal use of the "n" word, physical violence (including to women), vomiting, and gore, you should enjoy this film.

No comments:

Post a Comment