Quentin Tarantino puts his special sort of demented twist on the classic western genre in his 8th film, The Hateful Eight. Like the bastard son of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah, the avant garde writer/director delivers a bloody and gruesome holiday gift that devoted fans of his unorthodox cinematic style are sure to love.
The only thing for certain in a Tarantino picture is that you can expect the unexpected; and The Hateful Eight is full of delightfully shocking surprises. Nothing is sacred and no character is safe as the movie maestro masterfully manipulates the narrative of this 182-minutes long film.
As usual, Tarantino borrows from dozens of movies and television shows that he admires, then lovingly amps up those inspirations into something entirely different. In this case I’d venture to guess that John Wayne’s Stagecoach and The Magnificent Seven were big influences, and he steals from parts of his own Reservoir Dogs and Django Unchained as well.
The story takes place in “Minnie’s Haberdashery,” a cabin located outside of Red Rock, Wyoming, a few years after the end of the Civil War. The plot involves a group of desperate characters who find themselves together inside of the shop while escaping a ferocious blizzard.
Kurt Russell channels John Wayne’s voice while playing the bounty hunter, John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth, who is on his way to Red Rock with his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), when he meets up with an old acquaintance, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), who is a competing bounty hunter.
John Ruth’s stage coach is driven by O.B Jackson (James Parks) and the four travelers also pick up Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who is on his way to Red Rock to become its next Sherriff; but due to the inclement weather the group has to take shelter at Minnie’s.
At the Haberdashery cabin is Bob (Demian Bichir), Minnie’s Hispanic hired hand; the Englishman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth); a cowboy, Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and a retired southern General, Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern.) Minnie, herself, has allegedly gone to the North Country to visit her family.
Now if you are doing the math then you’ve figured out that’s nine characters, so who’s the un-hateful one? Well, you’ll have to be the judge. Channing Tatum comes along at some point too, and that’s not really a spoiler because his name is listed in the opening credits.
Both Jennifer Jason Leigh and Samuel L. Jackson provide Oscar worthy performances in this film, but the real star is Quentin Tarantino’s mesmerizing dialogue – which, especially when coupled with Jackson’s delivery, is almost always as good as it gets.
Another expectation of a Tarantino film is its perfect soundtrack and musical score, and he once again nails it by tapping the ‘spaghetti western’ icon, Ennio Morricone, to provide the original music. Even though the renowned composter was reportedly not happy with the violence his music accompanies.
There are a few minor missteps in this movie, but with a directors like Tarantino it is difficult to discern whether they are intentional nods to stereotypical b-movie failings or actual mistakes he missed. I lean towards giving him the benefit of the doubt.
If you are a Tarantino fan, then I don’t need to tell you this is already a must-see film. If you prefer that your holiday movie fare be wholesome and blood-free, then you will seriously want to take a pass on this flick. Grade: 9/10
A note on the 70mm Panavision roadshow presentation: The rendition of the movie reviewed here is the 70mm Panavision roadshow edition, which includes an opening overture with original music and an intermission (also with music.) The roadshow edition will open December 25, 2015, in limited release at theaters especially fitted with the require projection capabilities.
The Roadshow presentation in the Phoenix area is currently scheduled for the following theaters: Harkins Tempe Marketplace, Harkins Scottsdale 101, and AMC Westgate.
The film without the overture and intermission will open nationwide on January 8, 2016.
Photos © 2015 The Weinstein Company