As I’ve noted in this space before, there is one word in film that can get me to a theatre faster than a stagecoach bounding over a blizzard-laden mountain pass: Tarantino. Needless to say, when Tarantino delivered his eighth original feature film, aptly titled ‘The Hateful Eight’, I was certain to be there opening night. In strong fashion, what Tarantino produces is his fundamentally well-rounded blend of action, humour, and wildly over-the-top violence. While bellicose with gore and post-western flair, ‘The Hateful Eight’ delivers Tarantino’s iconic style darkly, avowedly, and indecorous.
While hurrying via stagecoach toward the town of Red Rock in post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) encounter another bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and a man who claims to be the new sheriff of Red Rock. Hoping to find shelter from an imminent blizzard, the group travels to a stopover called Minnie’s Haberdashery, located on a mountain pass. Greeted there by four grisly strangers, the eight travellers soon realise things are about to get real cosy.
Arranged as a six-act play, the first three acts introduce us to our detestable eight characters culminating in only one death, surprisingly, but that’s when the fun really begins. As the eight come to unravel each other’s true identities in the final three acts, the blood floweth abundantly revealing the four grisly strangers to be the notorious Domergue gang. The gang had since their arrival slaughtered Minnie’s previous inhabitants and occupants to claim the lodge as their own in a noble attempt to rescue their matriarch Daisy from The Hangman’s noose, ripe with continuous Mexican standoffs.
‘The Hateful Eight’ brings along a recognizable cast of characters for those of you familiar with Tarantino’s inner circle. Joining Jackson, who’s worked with Tarantino six times to date are frequent collaborators Kurt Russell (Death Proof), Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Four Rooms), Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill), Walton Goggins (Django Unchained), Zoë Bell (Kill Bill, Death Proof, Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained), and numerous others. Tarantino might as well start his own exclusive troupe with talent like that on retainer! Add in a surprisingly well-placed role by Channing Tatum, who is actually starting to get good at acting after his tour de force performance with Steve Carrell in ‘Foxcatcher’.
Now, it wouldn’t be a typical Tarantino picture without his patented creative film homages built in, so I’ll mention a few here. In his second take on the retro-spaghetti-western genre (not a sequel to Django), Tarantino cleverly mixes in some ubiquitous universe interplay between ‘The Hateful Eight’ and ‘Inglorious Basterds’ that the virgin eye may not have caught. Tim Roth’s character, initially thought to be the Red Rock hangman Oswaldo Mobray, is revealed to truly be notorious murderer and gangster English Pete Hicox – the ancestor of film-critic-turned-British-lieutenant Archie Hicox played by Michael Fassbender in ‘Inglorious Basterds’. Additionally, the film gives tribute to classic Kurt Russell movie, ‘The Thing’. Along with the similarities in appearance of Mr. Russell in both films as well as the parallel snowy setting, he also delivers the line, “One of them fellas is not what he says he is”. This line is a play on the line from ‘The Thing’where J.R. MacReady suspiciously says, “Somebody in this camp ain’t what he appears to be”. Boy, Tarantino knows how to keep us on our toes!
Filmed in 70mm film format for release at approximately 100 select theatres across the world, Tarantino arranged for projectors to be retrofitted with anamorphic equipped 70mm film just for this flick. However, the Roadshow release generally came off as an artistic gimmick, not one that really pushes the needle either way. Another fun collaboration is how legendary composer Ennio Morricone joins Tarantino for the fifth time to deliver an eerily exciting score once again, that constantly keeps you on the edge of your seat. Further, the film’s special effects were directed by Greg Nicotero, the man famous for his work on AMC TV series, ‘The Walking Dead’. So, that explains the gore!
Now the question, you must ask yourself before going to see ‘The Hateful Eight’ is…do you feel lucky? Just kidding, this is a spaghetti western, not a classic Eastwood western. In all seriousness though, if you did enjoy ‘Django Unchained’ and generally like Tarantino, you may find yourself pleased with his latest work. Nonetheless, if you are turned off by rampant, vicious carnage or perhaps explicit racism (including liberal use of the N-word), you may want to pass. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Tarantino in his storied nine film run, it’s that the man is not afraid to be hated and maybe that’s why ‘The Hateful Eight’ is his rightful brainchild.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth