The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight movie poster

Release: Wednesday, December 30, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Quentin Tarantino

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino isn’t softening in his old(er) age. The Hateful Eight might be one of his most vicious pieces yet, an ode to the frankness of life on the frontier as filtered through the perspectives of some of the meanest, nastiest sumbitches this side of the Continental Divide.

It’s a testament to the power of Tarantino’s snappy, whip-smart dialogue that a film that takes place essentially in two rooms — a traveling stagecoach and a remote Wyoming outpost known as Minnie’s Haberdashery — passes by almost in the blink of an eye. Or in this case, with the speed of a bullet to the groin. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. After all this movie runs the length of a basketball game — commercial breaks included — and it’s even longer if you experience it in the fancy-pants 70mm Ultra Panavision format, which comes complete with a little intermission.

First things first. There are quite a few things that The Hateful Eight is not. It’s not Tarantino’s most sprawlingly ambitious, nor is it his most poignant social commentary. It’s not family or date-friendly (but you knew that already), and it makes no concessions for those who were put off by the writer-director’s liberal usage of a certain racial slur in Django Unchained. As the time passes by in awkwardly disproportionate chapters it becomes a less sophisticated thing to watch. It’s not action-packed, and the writing isn’t quite as disciplined as it’s been in the past.

What it is, besides being a brilliant spin on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None — a classic whodunit wherein a group of strangers are invited to a remote estate and become suspicious of one another when they start getting picked off one by one — is the eighth reminder that filmmakers like Tarantino are all too rare. It’s a chatty chamber piece, and although it takes place almost exclusively in between the walls of a would-be cozy log cabin there’s no shortage of excitement . . . or bloodletting. Similar to Christie’s imaginative mystery thriller, viewers are complicit in the discovery process. Patiently we wait for the yarn of half-truths and three-quarter lies to fully unravel, to find out who these people really are and what their intentions are.

We’re introduced to Samuel L. Jackson’s Union soldier-turned-bounty hunter Marquis Warren, who flags down a passing stagecoach and asks for a ride to a shelter as a blizzard moves in. The horse-drawn carriage is transporting John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell), himself a bounty hunter, who is handcuffed to the fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). They’re headed for a town called Red Rock. Don’t let the mustache fool you: dude’s a roughneck — surly and prone to violence. After some banter back and forth he allows Warren to come aboard. Soon enough they’re stopped once more by another man caught out in the cold. This is Walton Goggins’ Chris Mannix, who advertises himself as the new sheriff of Red Rock. He’s also trying to make his way back there.

The wagon pulls up to the Haberdashery and instead of being greeted by its proprietor, they’re met by Mexican Bob (Demian Bichir) who tells them Minnie has taken off for a few days. Inside awaits another three men John wasn’t expecting. There’s the polite Englishman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth, channeling perhaps a little too much Christoph Waltz‘s Dr. King Schultz). It turns out he’s the hangman of Red Rock . . . by all accounts Domergue’s grim reaper. But at least he seems nice. By the fireplace sits the cranky General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern), responsible for murdering many a black Union soldier in the war. You could say he doesn’t take too kindly to Warren’s presence. And in the back corner sits lone cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), who is apparently waiting for the weather to clear so he can visit his mother on the outskirts of Red Rock.

The destination of Red Rock isn’t the common denominator these people share, per se, though I’m loathe to reveal specifics about what that really is. Let’s just say it’s something a little more personal.

Tarantino keeps mostly to this space in order to draw out the best (or is that the worst?) of these eight nefarious characters creatures. It’s determined they’ll be sharing the space for a few days since the weather is so bad. Soon enough the room becomes a bubbling cauldron of tension and distrust, John Ruth instigating much of it. His severe skepticism of everyone around him leads him to take precautionary measures. Domergue remains chained to his wrist. “Sheriff” Mannix constantly shifts loyalties. Warren is hostile and a notorious liar. Bob remains suspiciously quiet, and so too does the hangman. Ditto that for Joe Gage, while Domergue continues to suffer from her captor’s physical and verbal abuse.

For a film exceeding two-and-a-half hours and rarely taking advantage of its gorgeous natural environs outside, pacing isn’t much of an issue. Instead, more technical things stand out, and rather obviously. For a ragtag group of frontiersmen, these are some very eloquently spoken people. Call it a nitpick, but I prefer to call it an inevitability after paying such intense attention to what people are saying while also trying to figure out why such a wider, higher-resolution film was utilized here. Call it cabin fever. Something about the occasional verbal tirades, the overexploited art of romanticizing language, feels affected this time, almost as though Aaron Sorkin had gotten his hands on the script. (Shucks, now I sound like I don’t like Aaron Sorkin.)

But, I digress. It’s a new Tarantino offering and it’s more fun than it probably should be.

It’s also a film that almost never was. We’ve all heard the story: Tarantino vowed to scrap the project after a draft of the script was leaked late in 2014. He then considered turning it into a novel. Thankfully a live table read of the script convinced him to stick to his guns (e-hem) and commit to turning it into his next movie. Overly familiar creative flares notwithstanding, he’s once again acquitted himself the way any fan would want. The Hateful Eight is delightfully cynical, downright ugly at times and predictable in the best way possible.

Recommendation: Fans have another three hours of QT to pour over. The Hateful Eight doesn’t stack up to his weightier social commentaries and these characters are very, very difficult to like. They’re actually not likable at all but that’s one compelling angle to consider as you navigate your way through a labyrinthian web of relationships that grows ever more volatile as time ticks away. This is no pleasant winter retreat to the cabin in the woods. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 167 mins. (+20 min intermission if you see the 70 mm version)

Quoted: “When you get to hell, John, tell them Daisy sent you . . .”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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50 thoughts on “The Hateful Eight

  1. Great stuff Tom. I’m becoming such a Tarantino fanboy (girl) that I will need to watch this soon. Though I must say I’m not a major fan of such extreme violence, but Tarantino has a way about him that you can’t help but sit through it all.

    • Yeah he goes a bit crazy with the bloodshed, but it’s interesting. I will say the violence and gore in The Revenant struck me as more difficult to get through b/c it was so much more realistic. You can often tell in QT movies that he’s just using a big bucket of red syrup. So anytime u feel uncomfortable, just think of that! 😉

  2. I hope you don’t mind Tom but i cannot read this yet! I’m going to watch it finally tomorrow night and I can’t risk any spoilers or information at all. But your review looks brilliant and in depth as ever 🙂

    • No that’s totally understandable. Best to keep yourself as in the dark as possible for his movies! They (mostly) play out better when they’re nothing but surprises.

      Thanks very much for coming around to check it out. Look forward to hearing your reaction to it when you get a chance to experience it. 😀

  3. Great review Tom. I really loved it. Even more than you. Thought the stage play format was really something new for Tarantino and worked wonderfully well. Plus, the dialogue and the colorful characters made it so damn enjoyable that three hours went by in a flash

    • The three hours just disappeared, didn’t they? I absolutely enjoyed myself here despite some of QT’s decisions. I just finished reading a piece that dissected the over-usage of the n-word here and I couldn’t help but nod in full agreement that it was extremely excessive, borderline distracting. QT just overdoes these things sometimes, acting a little infantile towards critics who think he just does things to get a rise out of people. I don’t know the guy, so I can’t speak to his actual personality and his way of thinking. But it does seem like he’s rebelling in some ways by doing things like that. There’s no denying the film’s authenticity is created by the hostility towards different people in the film, but the violence in itself seemed to function well enough on its own where we didn’t need to have nigger-this, and nigger-that all over the place.

      It sounds like I didn’t enjoy the film and in truth the further away from it I get I think I do think slightly lesser of it, but still. It’s going to be a very memorable film no matter which way one chooses to slice it. 🙂

      • To be perfectly honest, I was never too bothered by Tarantino’s usage of the N word. That’s not to say that I’m a racist or anything 😀 but I think A LOT of people do have it out for Tarantino because his films are too violent. For me, it adds to the story he’s trying to tell and at the end of the day, its just a movie. None of what it says has to have any bearing over anything. I do understand if you found it distracting, its a valid complaint but in a lot of cases I think people just want to point fingers at Tarantino because his films are too violent and controversial.

  4. Jennifer Jason Leigh has been one of my favourites for years, so I’ll look forward to seeing her in this.
    Speaking before of sheilding one’s eyes – I find that Michael Madsen scene in Reservoir Dogs too awful to watch, effective yes, but awful.

    • I have not seen RD yet so I can’t speak to that part. But sounds pretty yummy! For some reason, the violence that pervades QT flicks never bothers me. Rather, it invokes the opposite response. I usually champion it like a giddy child. Sometimes, watching someone get the shit kicked out of them is just plain, old fun. Which is exactly what The H8ful Eight is all about.

  5. This I have seen and I share a lot of your thoughts about it. Not his finest film by any means but when he fires there are few filmmakers around who can thrill as well as he can. There are certain ongoing issues about Tarantino’s career that have put me off him a little, and I think he’s too busy trying to further provoke the people who have criticised him in the past, but I did enjoy the last 90 minutes of this. The stagecoach stuff was a bit slow, but it looked good.

    • Tarantino is very much taste-specific I think. That he has now made back-to-back spaghetti westerns is a fact that might put off some audiences, but if you’re in the mood for good old fashioned bloody showdowns, the last couple of years have been good for QT fans. Pulp Fiction might be the one film he’s made that has had truly wide appeal. Perhaps his debut as well, but it seems with each one of his releases there’s a new breed of followers he gets. He’s a lucky guy.

      • I think back-to-back westerns has been interesting, particularly as Kill Bill 1+2 have lots of spaghetti western elements as well, though I do hope he moves on to something different now. He does seem to gain new fans all the time, though, so good for him! I guess we’re starting to see that he appeals to different generations.

  6. Great review, well-written too. Digging your structure. I agree with you, although I wish I didn’t.

    I wanted this to be a 10 out of 5 like most Tarantino’s. While I love the usual slow deliberate pacing, H8 actually felt slow at times – or like you said so well: disproportionate chapters. I still enjoyed it more than most movies this year. I just expected it to be in my top 5, not my top 20. Who’d have thought Bone Tomahawk would be the best “Tarantino” flick this year 😉 (check my review if you haven’t already, buddy)

    • Tarantino is held to such a high standard that anything that doesn’t register at first as a 10 seems like it’s a big letdown. Many seem to think this is a weak film, which to me is a little crazy since it’s so well-written. I think it would have been sound enough to crack my Top 10 from last year but unfortunately I couldn’t get to it in time before I made that post.

      I’ll be sure to check out your thoughts on Bone Tomahawk, I can’t wait to see that either. Been hearing consistently great things about it. Thanks for commenting Dan!

      • Yes, it’s hard to separate our expectations. That said, as well as the slow, there were some cartoony elements (like when someone gets shot near the end and seems alright). The big miss that took me out of it was the Narration bit. Still an impressive feature, with an amazing first 2 hours (estimated).

        Just saw Revenant. So many great movies this year, it makes it extra hard for H8 to make Top 10 lists.

        • Yeah I have to say the narration was a little crowbarred in for me too. I managed to get used to it but it was really odd at first, since this film is set in such austere times. A voiceover kind of reminds you that it was filmed in 2015 lol.

          The Revenant is killer! Just got my review of it up actually. I’ll be sure to look for yours

  7. I think this is gonna require another watch. On this next watch, I’m not sure if I will love it more, or hate it more. But, it is an undeniable experience. Not many filmmakers or films can lay claim to that, even the superb ones.

    Great thoughts.

    • Dude thanks man. As is usual, yes I’d say this movie would benefit gr8tly (see what I did there?) from multiple viewings. Gah. . . .I wish I could go back immediately, because I’d love to. Gotta pick and choose wisely right now as my bank account is being brought to its knees. Dammit.

    • I’ve always thought middling Tarantino is superior to most crap that’s out there at the moment. 😉

      Parts of this movie did seem ridiculously OTT but all in all, another really fun outing

  8. Sounds like Tarantino doing what he does best. Can’t wait for this to release in Australia, you have me pumped up Tom! 🙂

    Did you see the 70mm version? I’m wondering if it is worth it, not to mention if it is even screening in that format down here.

    Either way I’m excited for this one! Great review mate, six days left till this one hits Oz! 😀

    • Tarantino has been on better form before but man, this movie pretty damn enjoyable. Doubly impressive when you consider how nasty these people are and how restrictive the shoot is. It basically takes place in two cramped rooms. I’d like to see this again, but right now I’m off to see The Revenant (finally! )

            • I need to see Reservoir Dogs! I feel embarrassed admitting to the fact I haven’t by now. And I call myself a Tarantino fan? oops. . . 😉

              Yeah man I look forward to a review from you if you write about it. I think it’s right up your alley

              • The more I read the more I want to see it. I loved Django and Inglorious despite the flaws, QT rarely fails to entertain.

                Oh man you are in for a treat, I wish I could rewind time and watch Dogs for the first time again! You’ll have to watch it for one of your throwback Thursdays! ;D Its bloody magnificent

                • Damn, good idea. I probably will be bringing that feature back next month. Had to take Jan off. haha Too overwhelmed with other things going on

  9. I’m usually a fan of Tarantino’s “snappy, whip-smart dialogue” but I was surprised with how the script didn’t deliver in that department. The dialogue lacks the sprightly zing that usually typifies Tarantino’s work. These are awful people that say ugly things.

    I adored Inglourious Basterds and I liked Django Unchained, but Tarantino lost me here.

    Nice review though. I understand why you enjoyed it.

    • Thanks Mark. I will agree that the writing isn’t *quite* up to scratch with this one, it’s a bit too expository and I think the fact these characters sound more than a little too sophisticated for being 19th century roughnecks was distracting as well. The setting is compelling but it did cause me to start noticing things like rhat. I also admired General Marquis Warren’s spectacular dental hygiene. What perfect teeth for a guy who suffered such hellish conditions! I remember your review and I totally get where you were put off by this group of baddies. They do try your patience, don’t they? 😉

  10. Great review, Tom! I’ve been back & forth on this one. First, I couldn’t wait to see it. Then when it came out & I read some reviews on the blogs, I decided I didn’t want to see it. But… You may have talked me into wanting to see it again. 🙂

    • I think a QT picture is always worth checking out. If not in the theater then definitely a rental! He’s such a unique vision. Even if this isn’t top tier QT is still superior to a lot of the other stuff being churned out right now.

  11. Well, I suppose there was no pleasant summer retreat to the cabin in the woods either – what gives! (Sorry, that last comment caught my eye & I couldn’t resist) 😀

  12. Pingback: Top That: Ten directors whose next films I can’t wait to see | digitalshortbread

  13. Stellar review Tom, you especially had me interested when you said it is something of a spin on And Then There Were None. Been hearing some interesting reports on this movie, Jennifer Jason Leigh seems to be getting a lot of praise.

    • Thanks Vinnie. Yeah, I think I reference that simply because it sets up a slow-burning mystery with a very vaguely similar premise. I don’t want to say too much but there are definite similarities. It’s all QT though at heart. Brutal, bloody and badass. And I didn’t mention it at all, but I absolutely loved Kurt Russel and Bruce Dern in this.

      • “Brutal, bloody and bad ass” sounds like my kind of movie then. And the cast are people that I really like so having them all in the same movie looks to be enjoyable.

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