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Movie Review: The Hateful Eight

Winter grows colder this year with The Hateful Eight. Image used from collider.com

Winter grows colder this year with The Hateful Eight. Image used from collider.com

For the past two decades, writer/director Quentin Tarantino has been a a filmmaker that many opinions have been split over. Many proclaim him to be a genius with a love for film making, while others despise his films feeling them to be too gory. pretentious and even offensive. Me? Honestly I prefer his more recent work most notably Inglorious Basterds, a  film which raised the bar for me while his following effort Django Unchained, lowered it some. I had mixed feelings before seeing The Hateful Eight– a part of me hoped it would be just as good as Inglorious Basterds but another part worried it would stumble into the same pitfalls as Django. While it does slip up more often then it should, I found myself rather surprised with Tarantino’s newest effort.

The story for The Hateful Eight runs far longer then it needs to but otherwise is cleverly put together. The story initially follows Major Maquis Warren a Union veteran of the Civil War, John Ruth a bounty hunter, Daisy Domergue an outlaw being taken by Ruth to be hanged and Chris Mannix a sheriff of a nearby town. Due to a blizzard the group finds themselves in a Haberdashery where they have to remain with four other people. The story at first is a slow burn and when I say a slow burn I mean a very slow burn. It takes a very long time with pages worth of dialogue of the many characters talking with one another, getting to know each other and establishing their personalities and wants all the while finding that in one way or another each and every one are connected somehow. That may sound dull but believe me it isn’t, in fact the way the film is structured is what makes it so interesting. The film has very restricted settings taking place initially in a stage coach before riding out completely in and around the Haberdashery. Very rarely do we see anything else, hardly even a flashback to another location, and this why I like it so. The film works out as a sort of stage play, a story that is meant to be told in a just a few locations and in this restricted space a fine story is allowed to unfold and interesting characters develop. The story itself becomes even more engrossing when it turns into an Agatha Christie style Murder/Mystery that soon explodes into Tarantino’s typical violent finales. When the story for The Hateful is good it’s very good and often times it does not feel like it’s two hour and forty seven minute running time. However that are quite a few blemishes that The Hateful Eight bares. For starters it feels like Tarantino was almost desperate for this film to be nearly three hours as there are many parts where it feel like padding with characters doing trivial things or the camera holding on a character when it should have cut long ago. Another problem is a big one that had afflicted Django and that’s the constant use of a racial slur. I understand that that is how people may have spoken in the mid 1800’s and the characters are genuinely rotten people anyway, however it is so overused that it becomes irksome and just because you can do it does not mean you should at all. There are moments that are also far too sadistic, again these are bad people but often times their antics made me feel greatly uncomfortable. If that’s what Tarantino was going for then great but even so this film isn’t for those with weak constitutions.

The characters for The Hateful Eight are an interesting bunch

The characters with the main focus are Ruth, Warren, Mannix and Domergue and each are very similar. The title of the film does not lie these are truly hateful people and these four exemplify the title as each is cruel and sadistic in their own way with Ruth taking delight in beating Domergue, Warren taking pleasure in the misery of other rotten people, Mannix taking pride in his superiority and using it to put others down and Domergue laughing when those around her start dropping dead. They’re peculiar characters, ones that normally I would despise and gladly see go but I found myself being pulled into these characters and their interactions and development with one another. It is actually refreshing to see a film where there is no hero, no good guy just a bunch of rotten people doing rotten things.

The remaining characters aren’t as fleshed out as the previous four. For the most part they don’t get to do much to stand out or grow. There are some really interesting twists and turns with these characters but otherwise they’re essentially fodder. The only one that truly stood out was the stage coach driver O.B. Out of all the characters O.B. doesn’t have ulterior motives or a dark, violent past he’s just a helpful driver who got stuck with the wrong group of bastards at the wrong time.

Acting for The Hateful Eight is strong

Samuel L. Jackson manages to steal most of the show as Warren. Jackson manages to be captivating as he’s simultaneously humorous and menacing and all the while still maintaining that usual, constant charm of his.

Kurt Russell gives a fine performance as the sadistic Ruth. He works well off of Jackson through most of the film making for some great moments between the two. His performance feels very old school as he’s a typical tough guy with a particularly bad streak to him which made his performance all the more engaging.

Walton Goggins gives one of his best performances yet as Mannix. What I thought to be a throw away role like in Django turned out to be a surprise as Goggins has plenty to do, maintaining a stature of importance in the story while being memorable and at times wonderfully over the top.

Jennifer Jason Leigh is wonderful as Daisy Domergue. Though she, irritatingly, spends most of the film being beaten by Russell, Leigh manages to give a delightfully crass performance.

Tim Roth is very humorous as Oswaldo Mobray. Roth adopts a British accent which adds to his likeable performance, honestly at times I would forget it was Roth as he manages to blend with his character so well.

Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and Demian Bichir have the littlest to do among the cast as they typically stand off to the side. However they each have their moments and their moments are fantastic especially Bichir who acts like an old spaghetti western villain which is absolutely enjoyable.

The sets and effects for The Hateful Eight are well made.

What little sets there are in The Hateful Eight are splendid as there’s plenty of detail in such a tight space. The Haberdashery is built nicely and is stocked completely with various nick knacks that give the set life. Tarantino did a splendid job of displaying how cold it was and how tight the set is, giving off the impression of extreme cold and claustrophobia while still maintaining a set large enough for these eight characters to have it out. The gore effects by Gregory Nicotero are also very well made and thankfully are just the right amount of gory as it doesn’t go vastly overboard like it’s predecessor but still comes off as visceral.

Final Thoughts: It isn’t a perfect film but The Hateful Eight is still an enjoyable film. The story is far too long but it soon develops into a very engaging mystery and an incredibly tense finale, The stage play aspect of the story works entirely to the film’s advantage, the characters are rotten yet unique and the acting from the entire cast alone is worth a recommendation. This film is not for everyone but if you have the time and the curiosity then I suggest you ride down to see the mystery and violence of The Hateful Eight.

Verdict: 3.5/5

About the Author

Good day to you, my name is Jonathan Gonzalez. For years I’ve loved movies and have been reviewing them for years, ever since I first saw Roger Ebert on Ebert and Roeper during my freshman year of high school for the first time. I am a graduate of Mercy College with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and I have Asperger’s Syndrome, something I am truly proud of.

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