Thursday, January 28, 2016

THE HATEFUL EIGHT (2015)

Written & Directed by Quentin Tarantino


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA.  January 12, 2016 3:45 PM



"The Hateful Eight" is set over two hundred years ago, shortly after the Civil War. While there are horse-drawn coaches, six-shooters and grubby, cowboy drag, the latest film from writer/director Quentin Tarantino may take place in the wild west, an era of lawlessness and vigilantism but its really not really much of a western. This is the film maker's usual potent gab-fest which he uses different B-movie genres he admires to enhance his stories. Beginning with the crime thriller, "Reservoir Dogs" and followed by the black-comedy, "Pulp Fiction", martial arts actioner, "Kill Bill" and blaxploitation slavery drama, "Django Unchained", Tarantino has entertained with his unique brand of profanity-laced, biting dialogue, off-kilter plotting and brutal, bloody violence.

"The Hateful Eight" follows this familiar formula yet after eight films (if you count the separately released, two-part "Kill Bill" as one film) it's starting to feel overly routine and with a one hundred and eighty-seven minute run time, unnecessarily excessive. The film does look incredible thanks to the work of cinematographer Robert Richardson (who has been involved with the director since "Kill Bill"), shooting "Eight" with the rarely used 70mm wide-film format which delivers a breath-taking screen image. Tarantino impressively managed to get the eighty-seven year old Italian composer, Ennio Morricone, well-known for his work on westerns throughout the 1960's, to perform his magic here with his first score of a western since 1981.

Presented in six chapters, our story begins in rural Wyoming with a stagecoach racing through a snow-covered road attempting to beat an oncoming blizzard when it's stopped by Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson). A bounty hunter stranded with three wanted dead bodies, Warren requests a ride to the next town, Red Rock. The passenger is another bounty hunter, John Ruth (Kurt Russell) handcuffed to his combative, foul-mouthed fugitive, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) also trying to get to that town but in no mood to share a ride. However, the men had previously been acquainted and after sharing some remembrances including Warren's personal letter from Abraham Lincoln, Ruth welcomes him aboard.

Further down the road, another stranded man, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a former Confederate solider, flags down the coach. Ruth doesn't trust this coincidence but Mannix claims to be the new sheriff of Red Rock. He persuades the reluctant bounty hunter that it would be in his best interest, since he's the law of that town, to let him on board.

Once they reach the stop-over called Minnie's Haberdashery, there's no sign of Minnie but there are several guests waiting to ride out the storm. There's Bob (Demi√°n Bichir), known as "The Mexican", that was left in charge after the owner had to leave for an emergency. Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), a Brit who just happens to be Red Rock's executioner. A man of few words, Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) is on his way to visit his ailing mother. And the grizzled, racist Confederate General (Bruce Dern) that Warren, a former major for the Union Army, is quite familiar with.

Since this is Tarantino's universe, you should expect unexpected twists and illogical turns as our story continues down to it's bombastic, bloody conclusion. There's nothing close to any good guys here, just morally-ambiguous men and blood-thirsty killers trapped together in a claustrophobic setting. As usual, Tarantino gleefully wallows in the depravity and savagery of these characters while having them deliver his thoughtfully witty banter. But this time, the enigmatic plot feels far too predictable to keep us fully engaged, particularly at this butt numbing length.

"The Hateful Eight" is a testosterone-heavy tale with a regrettable whiff of misogyny. The only female in the group is subjected to ferocious verbal and physical abuse, which at times, is played for laughs. That Daisy Domergue is a dangerous, wanted criminal seems to imply justification for this behavior yet that doesn't make it feel less ugly. The use of the N-word is also problematic for while it's clear that it's use was very common during this period, the frequency here still feels superfluous.

It's the exceptional performances, with the tense interplay between this despicable group of people, that really help keep us fully intrigued. Some of the actors have worked with the director previously, like Russell, Madsen, Roth and especially Jackson (who has made some kind of appearance in every film except "Reservoir Dogs") that can skillfully handle his lengthy, rapid-fire language  There are a few new players on board (which includes Dern, Goggins and the lone female with a major role, Ms Leigh) that bring their unique flair to this gritty drama.

While many of the distinctive elements are in place that we love about the film maker, "The Hateful Eight" is minor Tarantino. This violent thriller will definitely please the hardcore fan elated with his clever use of words. As for the more causal viewer, they may be entertained for fleeting moments but find the disturbing nature of the story and endless chatter too much to endure.