Tarantino’s western who-dunnit is every bit as entertaining as you’d expect.
Tarantino’s 8th and latest film, The Hateful Eight, is pretty much almost everything you’d expect from a Tarantino film. There’s excessive violence, snappy dialogue, uncomfortable humor, memorable characters, and an unrestrained use of the n-word. If you’ve ever liked Tarantino film, then I don’t think The Hateful Eight will disappoint you.
The film stars Kurt Russel and Samuel L. Jackson as bounty hunters who cross paths looking to find shelter from an approaching blizzard. While transporting a dangerous criminal, they shack up at a nearby haberdashery with a slew of interesting characters, but almost none of them can be trusted. The film plays out much like an old school western with a very engaging mystery, and all the Tarantino bat-shit insanity you expect.
All of the performances are terrific, but Walton Goggins and Jennifer Jason Leigh are the standouts here. Samuel L. Jackson plays a typical Samuel L. Jackson character and has a lot of fun with it, and Kurt Russell plays a John Wayne-like character who will not deal with anyone’s shit. The story is a lot of fun and never slows down enough to feel like its dragging on. You’re never quite sure who to trust and as it progresses you’ll be hanging onto every word of dialogue while your ass teeters on the edge of your seat. The score by Ennio Morricone, who also scored The Good the Bad and the Ugly as well as Once Upon a Time in the West, is hauntingly brilliant and is a perfect compliment to not only the narrative, but begins to feel like an omnipresent force in its own right.
Pacing might be a problem some will have with the movie, since the first half is a really slow burn that is basically Tarantino dialogue for an hour with little action. The second half is more of the usual Tarantino action/violence oriented type of film you’re used to seeing, but this split worked for me for a few reasons:
- Tarantino is an unconventional storyteller, which I find is one of the best things about his writing. You’re never quite sure what to expect when you’re watching each scene. At any point in the film you feel that anyone could die, at any time, for any reason. This helps elevate the suspense and uncertainty you feel when watching, which leads you to be more engrossed in the story and its characters. I found neither half boring, as you’re pulled into the story from the beginning, and you’ll be shackled hand-in-hand until the ride’s over. And it’s a hell of a ride.
- If you watch the 70mm version, (which you should if you can) there’s a nice intermission that helps split the movie into two parts. The intermission felt refreshing. It gives you time to talk about the movie with your friends, get refills, and hit the pisser. It also provides a nice segue for the story, as you can tell Tarantino made his idealized version of this film to include the intermission.
- The two part structure makes sense in the construct of the story as a two act play. The first act is an introduction to our main characters and establishing their relationships among themselves out on the road and in reaching the cabin, where the second act is almost entirely isolated indoors to one location. The Hateful Eight very much feels like a stage performance that relies on only two main locations, separated by a change in scenery.
Even if you find the pace very slow at the start, the ending is so satisfying you’ll probably walk out of the theater with a nice pep in your step. Watching with a rowdy audience actually makes the film more endearing, and the 70mm showing is a special experience in its own right.
If you like Tarantino films, I think you’ll love The Hateful Eight. I’d put it tied with Reservoir Dogs as my 3rd favorite of his films. I’m already excited to see it again, and I think you will be too.
Overall Score: 4.5/5 stars