Film Review – The Hateful Eight
The Hateful Eight
Okay Tarantino fans, here’s my review of The Hateful Eight in a nutshell: If you love Quentin Tarantino, you will probably enjoy this film. If you think his movies are crap, there is nothing here that will change your mind. If you, like me, have mixed feelings about his stuff, than you are going to feel right at home here. If you’ve seen one of his pictures before, than you know what you are getting: lots of swearing, action, violence, some decent gore, the possibility (or more) of a man getting raped, some enjoyable dialogue, and the flagrant overuse of the n-word. The first half of the film sets up a mystery, and the second half reveals what is really going on. It’s like the longest, meanest, most foulmouthed episode of Scooby Doo ever.
Post Civil War bounty Hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is escorting murderer Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock, Wyoming, but there’s a storm on their ass, and stagecoach driver O.B. (James Parks) doubts they are going to make it there. Matters are complicated when they stop to pick up Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a fellow bounty hunter whose horse has died and left him stranded, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) a true son of the South who claims he is the new sheriff of Red Rock. Ruth is reluctant to travel with the two men – he is determined to let nothing get in his way of collecting the $10,000 bounty on Daisy – but they each present a compelling case for his help. It would be easier for him to kill Daisy, but he is determined to bring her in alive. (He is known as “The Hangman” because when a person is wanted dead or alive, he always brings ‘em in to be hanged.) They don’t make it all the way to Red Rock, but they do get to Minnie’s Haberdashery, a small mountain outpost. There are already fellow travelers present waiting out the storm: Red Rock’s hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), a former rebel general Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), and a cowpoke working on his memoirs, Joe Gage (Michael Madsen). Minnie herself has gone to visit her mother, but her Mexican hired man Bob (Demian Bichir) is there to help them all get settled. It doesn’t take Ruth and Warren long to figure out that not everyone is who or what they seem. It appears that someone may be trying to prevent Daisy’s hanging, and it becomes a waiting game to see who will move first while they wait out the storm.
This movie is too damn long. There’s not enough story here to maintain a 2 hour and 48 minute running time, and the pacing of the first half really suffers for it. I thought it dragged, and if I were watching at home, I might have been tempted to play on my laptop or phone until things picked up. The second half is livelier, but the final revelation of what exactly is going on isn’t strong enough to support what preceded it. Most of the film takes place at Minnie’s, which is a one-room affair, so it’s a lot like watching a play unfold. And not only is there a lot of meandering in the story, there is a superfluous character, which is really noticeable in this kind of tight situation. There is no reason for Joe Gage to be here. He doesn’t really do anything and contributes nothing verbally that one of the other characters couldn’t say in his place. Daisy Domergue is another character that is seriously underwritten, but at least Jennifer Jason Leigh takes what little she has and makes it memorable. She mostly just acts crazy or mean and gets the shit constantly kicked out of her by Ruth. I’ve checked out some other reviews, and that seems to be a bone of contention for a lot of people. Honestly it didn’t bother me while I was watching it, and it still doesn’t upon reflection. Ruth isn’t beating on her because she is a woman; he’s doing it because she is a prisoner and has ceased to be a person to him. Which is kind of how the modern prison system works, if perhaps a bit more subtly. If misogyny is at work here, it’s in Daisy’s lack of anything interesting to say. I would have liked to see her with more of the great dialogue that some of the other characters had, instead of just being someone who exists simply to hinge a story on.
I’m gonna take a moment and talk about the n-word, which is in this movie about a bazillion times. It takes place right after the Civil War, so some usage of it is probably appropriate, but it is relentless here. I became so desensitized to it that I used it when talking about the film to my husband. As an off-white middle-aged Latina, I don’t believe there is any circumstance when I can say that word and not be an asshole. So now I am an asshole. Thanks Quentin Tarantino.
But like every other Tarantino movie, there are some wonderful things. The scenes shot outside are gorgeous. The image of the horse-driven coach hurtling through the snow while Ennio Morricone’s score plays is one of the most arresting things I have seen in a long time. And that score is something special. I think music is important to a film, but I am a visual person, and that is usually where my focus is. Not this time though. Samuel L. Jackson is pretty much always Samuel L. Jackson, but he’s enjoyable, so who cares. Kurt Russell can do no wrong with me, and Walton Goggins takes a jackass like Chris Mannix and manages to make him a complex and multifaceted character. (The writing has something to do with it too, but there is also some inconsistent behavior towards the end of the film that mitigates that a bit.) I like violence, gore, and swearing, so there was a lot here for me to enjoy.
According to the internets, Morricone augmented the theme he wrote specifically for this film with unused music from his score to John Carpenter’s The Thing, and there are a few other parallels that can be made here: both films star Kurt Russell, take place in freezing isolation, and feature characters who may not be what they seem. But Carpenter’s film is an hour shorter, and is much better for it; it’s a cohesive story, sparingly told. Somewhere in The Hateful Eight there might be a good movie, but it’s hard to find through all its rambles.