Reviewed by Daniel Janks: actor, creative director, writer, cynic, father, husband. He was born in 1977 and has still not died. He loves many things, chief among which are his mythic wife and odd girl-child. Visit his website.
Director Quentin Tarantino
Writer Quentin Tarantino
Cast Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason
AGE RESTRICTION: [R]
There’s not too much violence in the film, but what there is, is graphic and has a lot of blood and gore, a lot!
I loved this film. Yes, it’s long. Yes, for a large chunk nothing really happens. Yes it’s mostly just talking and drinking coffee. Yes, it feels more like a play than a film. But I’ll watch a Quentin Tarantino play any day, wouldn’t you?
The film starts with two bounty hunters hauling cargo (most dead, one alive – most men, one woman) to the town of Red Rock to collect their bounties. They travel by stagecoach through a terrible storm, with worse weather nipping at their heels. They take shelter in a rickety, sifting roadhouse and it’s here we meet the full Hateful Eight (or nine, or ten: there are more than eight characters and they’re all pretty hateful). Already at the roadhouse are a collection of fellas, dangerous men, cool characters – something is afoot. What ensues is a slow and wordy unfolding of events. Eakingly we learn who’s who and what’s up in the roost. It’s sort of an Agatha Christie-esque whodunit, except not only don’t we know who dun it, we’re not even sure what they dun.
Tarantino is famous for finding old, once A-list actors who’ve fallen by the wayside and resurrecting their careers. He did it for John Travolta, he did it for Uma Thurman. He tried to do it did it for Pam Grier but that didn’t work out so well. In The Hateful Eight he’s at it again, with a vengeance. This time it’s Kurt Russel and Michael Madsen on the resurrection block, and time will tell if they’re to reap the Travoltian rewards, or slip back into Grierian oblivion.
This is an all star cast, all be some of the stars a little faded. Samuel L. Jackson shines as brightly as ever. Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh return to A-list moviemaking after a noticeable absence. Walton Goggins continues to build a fantastic career. Demián Bichir pokes his head above the waters of C-list actordom. Tim Roth returns to the big screen after a few years mucking about on the little one. Michael Madsen proves that a little hair dye and sexy squint can help you recover an all-but-dead career (actually Mike is one of the busiest actors in Hollywood, he made no less than 15 films in 2015, but what’s the last thing you saw him in?) Bruce Dern continues his re-emergence from the B-list that began in 2013 with Nebraska. And James Parks … well … who the hell is James Parks, right? And that’s the key cast, all nine of them. The Hateful Nine, no wait …
In my eye the stand out performances are undoubtedly those delivered by Walton Goggins, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tim Roth. They are perfectly positioned in that Tarantino-esque, quasi-reality of heightened almost-over-acting and rich characterisation that lifts them off the screen and makes watching them a magical experience. This is not to take anything away from the other performances. Kurt Russell is great, but he’s Kurt Russell. His John Ruth could be Snake Plissken or Jack Burton gotten a little grey in the moustache. Similarly Samuel L. Jackson’s Major Marquis Warren could be an ageing Jules Winfield or Neville Flynn. The only performance that left me cold was Michael Madsen’s. He coulda got his a lot earlier with upsetting me.
All in all, almost everyone shines and it’s this richness of performance that more than makes up for the almost two hours of action in which, basically, nothing happens.
It’s the vision of the piece which places this among Tarantino’s best films. He’s always said that he’s only making ten films, and that after that he plans to move on to other things. That’s his plan, ten films and that’s that. The Hateful Eight is his eighth. Of the eight I’d say only four are truly great and memorable films. Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Basterds and The Hateful Eight. I can’t call Jackie Brown, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & 2, Death Proof and Django Unchained great.
They’re awesome, fun, interesting works, but his greats are something to behold. Epic experiences, journeys down the rabbit-hole. A true experience of visionary filmmaking. And The Hateful Eight is one of them, albeit one that kinda creeps up on you. On the surface it lacks the freneticism and manic pace of the most of his films. It harkens back to his first film, Reservoir Dogs. One central location, a cast of interesting character. A slowly unfolding story told in wordy winding dialogue and monologue. At times one is almost bored, but then he reels you in a little more and the hook is reset and you’re gladly pulled back towards the net, and the air, and bishop waiting to beat out your brains.
See it. Love it. But don’t expect Pulp Fiction or Inglorious Basterds. This is a slow film. But a beautiful one.
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