The Hateful Eight (2015)
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, and Channing Tatum
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
As I sit and watch them (with the exception of Kill Bill which I admittedly haven't watched in a while), I often find myself cursing the writer-director for being so loquacious, adding scenes that seemingly do little to advance the plot except to showcase his (only sometimes) brilliant ear for dialog. But by the time most of the conclusions to his films roll around, I end up giving him a pass on the preceding verboseness because he manages to tie things up on such a clever note. Such is the case with The Hateful Eight - a nearly three-hour epic that features an awful lot of talking, very minimal sets, and a group of essentially eight actors who carry the film very adequately on their shoulders doing Tarantino's Western-Agatha Christie And Then There Were None mash-up justice.
In his eighth film as a director, The Hateful Eight unfolds across six chapters detailing how a group of people end up seeking refuge at Minnie's Haberdashery in Wyoming during a horrible blizzard in the time shortly after the Civil War concludes. Arriving just before the snowstorm really hits is John Ruth (Kurt Russell), a bounty hunter, who has the elusive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in tow ready to reap his reward upon delivering her to the authorities in Red Rock. Ruth arrives at Minnie's with Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) - a Union major in the Civil War - and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) - the newly appointed sheriff of Red Rock. Pent up at Minnie's already are four men whom are immediately distrusted -- Bob (Demian Bichir), a Mexican who claims he's working for Minnie who has left to see her sister several miles away; Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), an Englishman who is also a hangman; Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), a cowboy just passing through; and Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern), a Confederate general. With a large bounty on the head of Daisy, John Ruth questions his safety and perhaps he is justified. As the night unfurls, secrets and motivations are revealed as one by one people begin to bite the dust.
There's no doubting that The Hateful Eight moves at a slow pace -- many of the reviews and personal comments I heard from people stated that "nothing happens" until the last hour. While it's certainly true in that there's not much plot per se in the film's first half, there is a sense of character building that I must admit is Tarantino's forte. We get a real sense of who these characters are by the dialog they speak and their interactions with others. Yes, it's true that the characters present are racist misogynists (of which there was much hoopla upon the film's release), but that's Tarantino's modus operandi across his last three films (for better or worse). And, admittedly, that's part of the reason for my first sentence of this review in that I can't help but think that Tarantino sticks too closely to what has worked for him in the past -- films broken up into chapters; films told out of order or with massive flashbacks; brash language; insanely rough violence; characters all cut from the same cloth in terms of personality -- rather than branching off in unexpected directions. Kudos to him for finding a niche that works and sticking to it, but I do long for something new and fresh from the guy. However, The Hateful Eight works so maybe I should just let him do what he does.
As far as the small cast, most successful at settling into their characters are Jennifer Jason Leigh (Oscar-nominated for her role) and Kurt Russell taking center stage in a film for the first time in a long time which this reviewer found to be a bit of a pleasure. Leigh and Russell have a lot of interactions with one another and right off the bat the two click with Leigh portraying the tough as nails criminal and Russell playing the tough as nails bounty hunter, neither liking each other, but quite literally linked together by chains. Samuel L. Jackson is certainly entertaining and a captivating entity, but he's the only one of the group that feels as if he was transplanted from a more modern time into the past. He doesn't necessarily take us out of the era, but his character never quite clicks realistically.
The Hateful Eight will never be a film for everyone -- it's undoubtedly a Tarantino film and if they're not your cup of tea, this will not be for you either. Yes, it's too long and that harms it, but it's definitely on par with the director's efforts as of late which have all been quality flicks that would all fare a little better if an editor tried to trim things a little more.
The RyMickey Rating: B