The Hateful Eight(U)
Running time 3hr 7mins
YOU have to admire Quentin Tarantino. He’s not getting pushed around by anyone. He’s made a success of himself in a cut-throat industry on his own terms – even if that’s meant making (self-confessed) mistakes, like splicing films together for a final edit that’s way too long. He’s said in the past that if he could go back and re-edit Kill Bill, he’d make it one film.
But if there’s anyone working in Hollywood today that you’d allow the luxury of putting out a lengthy director’s cut, it’s Tarantino. A man with the apparent freedom of this maverick auteur should be permitted the chance to indulge himself and express his vision in the way he needs to express it. And if you’re giving cinema fans more of the types of stories, characters, scenarios, stylised violence, off-kilter humour and narrative style that Tarantino has to offer, then the response from audiences ought to be a resounding “Yes, please”.
That said, the first half of The Hateful Eight is something of an endurance if you’re not a big fan of the high-energy director. It’s dialogue heavy and action light.
Slowing his pace dramatically, Tarantino focuses the first segment of his film on a stagecoach and its journey into the frontier town of Red Rock as a blizzard starts to take hold. The coach has been commissioned by John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth (Kurt Russell), who is transporting his latest bounty, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), to deliver her into the hands of the law and collect his payment.
Picking up fellow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) along the way after he pleads for carriage during the storm, the group bicker and swap stories as they decide whether or not they can trust each other and whether there’s more to each other than meets the eye, or ear.
Coming across another man out alone in the storm, they decide to bring him aboard too, and all endup taking refuge at a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Here, they find a gaggle of nefarious guests already occupying the abode, and the film steps up a gear as it starts investigating who’s who, and what’s what. Tarantino’s eighth film, The Hateful Eight is theatrical in approach. It’s reliant on dialogue, with the vast majority of the action taking place in just two locations; if we’re not inside the stagecoach, we’re within the confines of the log cabin, with a few outside intervals set amid the snowy, barren landscape.
In this way, it harks back to Reservoir Dogs – but it also shares other parallels with his first feature. There are obvious stylistic comparisons to be made, in humour and violence for example, and there’s also a focus on an ensemble cast and a group of untrustworthy characters trying to work out who’s crossed who. It also skips back in time to fill in the gaps for the audience.
Less showy and experimental than some of his previous films, Quentin Tarantino pays homage to scenes in some of his other films – notably the opening sequence of Inglourious Basterds. Walton Goggins is the film’s surprising highlight, with Jennifer Jason Leigh matching his A-game and proving she’s been off the radar for far too long. Assured and stripped back, The Hateful Eight marks Tarantino coming full circle in his career – leaving fans to wonder where he can possibly go next. We’ll look forward to finding out.