THE HATEFUL EIGHT – REVIEW: Quentin Tarantino’s second Western is a bloody locked room mystery of a wide screen claustrophobia and unbridled suspicion and violence.
John Ruth (Kurt Russell at his most John Wayne-y) is a bounty hunter nicknamed the Hangman, because instead of shooting his targets and bringing them to town over a saddle insists on seeing them hang. Escorting notorious female felon, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the gallows he meets Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a former soldier turned bounty hunter who has his own bodies to bring to market. Along the way they also meet Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a Confederate bushwhacker turned Red Rock sheriff. Why all these characters happen upon one another while running ahead of a potentially deadly blizzard is never fully explained and the mystery gets even deeper when they arrive at the dubious refuge of Minnie’s Haberdashery where they meet up with cowboy, Michael Madsen, Englishman, Tim Roth, Southern General, Bruce Dern and Mexican Bob, Demian Bechir. Minnie, sweet Dave and the other regulars of the place are missing and something is obviously afoot.
What follows is bloody and witty, long-winded, frustrating, violent (obviously) and both overwhelming and underwhelming at exactly the same time. The premise is much more modest than the epic treatment it is given. The Hateful Eight feels like an Agatha Christie inspired bottle episode of Bonanza written by Sam Peckinpah, but why it has to be three hours long and shot in 70 mm is beyond me. There are performances to relish from the veterans of the cast – and it is a blessed relief to not have to put up with the supposedly brilliant Christoph Waltz any longer. Ennio Morricone’s score is worth the price of admission alone. The opening scenes of the snowy Wyoming landscapes are gorgeous but like many mysteries the initial intrigue leaks out with each ho-hum revelation. Of plot holes there are several and Bob and Harvey Weinstein might do well to employ a tough no nonsense script editor on the final two Tarantino productions. All of that said, The Hateful Eight is a better film than Django Unchained and Inglourious Bastereds, though it doesn’t reach the early peaks of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs.