The Hateful Eight (2015)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Needs More Hate
by Mason Manuel
The Hateful Eight is like that little brother you had that your parents loved so much that he got away with everything, so he kept pushing the envelope just because. Quentin Tarantino is back with another one of his signature gory, hilarious pieces with a Western-ish setting. Along for the ride is his troupe of usual actors including Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen, and Kurt Russell. Most of the staggering run time circles around a mainly male posse solving their personal problems with shotguns to the face, which is not exactly groundbreaking for Tarantino, but if the formula ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But unlike his previous films, the violence does not feel like it has much purpose behind it. Violence is there for violence’s sake. Despite Tarantino being the writer of some of the strongest women in cinematic history, the single woman in the cast mostly gets the ever loving sh*t beaten out of her and talked over constantly by her much more present male co-stars. The Hateful Eight feels like Tarantino is just making controversy for controversy’s sake, and that’s disappointing given his track record; but that’s not to say it is a hell of a fun film.
Eight starts as a riff on Spaghetti Westerns, complete with a score by the masterful Ennio Morricone. Long rolling landscape shots, whistling tones, the whole nine yards. While there are the titular eight protagonists, the only ones you will really remember are Russell’s Hangman, Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy, and S.L.J’s Major Marquis Warren. The trio is forced to shack up with a variety of rouges, all of whom appear to have a dark backstory worth exploring. Instead of the normal “shoot first, ask questions later” tone that Tarantino is known for, Eight strives to be a murder mystery with complex human relationships that don’t require gratuitous violence. This allows for some cool moments of post-civil war reflection, particularly with Warren. Being a black man in what is still a very racially split America forces Warren to be the most kick-ass of the group, having to simultaneously prove his worth and keep control of the crazy situations that occur.
Warren acts as a detective – we see him careful dissect each character’s story to find the truth and, more importantly, the lies. The best scenes of the film are easily when this character is grilling over his white co-stars – making them squirm as they have to answer to someone who is reveling in their newly earned freedom. Warren also acts as a conduit for all of the Tarantino-isms that we have come to expect. He’s violent, funny, and has the best monologue of any Tarantino film ever. Sadly, these provocations start to come off as pointless rather than having actual meaning behind it. Unlike Django Unchained where the use of the n-word had an almost fraternal sting to it, the eight throw it around just because there weren’t enough swear words in the last line of dialogue. Too often the script wanders off and distracts from the contemporary issues that it tries to explore. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Tarantino’s script is lazily written and is far from his best work. There are plenty of enjoyable parts, but it never comes together with the tight, professional touch that we have seen in his previous films.
Aesthetically, The Hateful Eight is a beautiful film. If you have the chance to see the picture in “glorious” 70 mm be sure to do so; some beautiful shots of snowy peaks and the interior of the cabin can only be realized with the superior aspect ratio. Robert Richardson’s cinematography expertly captures the brutal chill of Minnie’s Haberdashery and makes good use of wide shots inside the cabin to show what the many characters are up to. Lighting is particularly impressive too, as the charming interior of the cabin is excellent contrast to the dark chill of the outdoors.
The Hateful Eight is a highly enjoyable film that falls under the weight of its predecessors. If the film didn’t last three hours and was more straightforward, the script would have felt more streamlined. Instead, it often feels like wandering plot threads are introduced just to waste time. There is a captivating main plot that is intoxicating, but too often a meaningless development is introduced that makes the dialogue feel sloppy and lazily written. But even a sub-par Tarantino film is an excellent picture. An excellent cast meshed with this excellent director makes for an entertaining three hours – but we expect more. RDR gives The Hateful Eight a 7.9 out of 10.