THE HATEFUL EIGHT – A Review By Gary Murray

The Hateful Eight poster


Quentin Tarantino is an amazing film maker and is a big time film geek.  Over the years he has thrilled the masses while letting the film geeks know he is one of them.  All of his films feature super cool dialogue while letting on that he is a fan boy of all things cinema.  In his latest flick The Hateful Eight Quentin proves that he is both a fan of the Western but also a fan of the old road show style of motion picture.

For those ho do not know the concept of a road show picture, it was the kind of film that hasn’t been around much in the latter part of distribution.  It was the kind of film that would only play one city at a time.  Each seat was assigned and there would be no previews before the main feature. 

Prior to the film starting, the screen would be curtained off.  The curtain would raise and there would be an overture of the music of the film.  Then the first half of the film would be shown.  After that part of the film, the audience would get an intermission.  The second half would then be shown.  It made going to the movies an event like going to a musical play.

The film opens with an overture with the major musical theme.  It is a nice touch but most of the audience will not know how to take it.  Then the main title states that the film is in Cinerama.  There are only a scant few cinemas that still project in the super wide, fish eye style of Cinerama.  Again, it feels more like an inside joke between the writer/director and the audience. 

The feature finally opens in the cold, snowy Wyoming—well away from civilization and right after the Civil War.  Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) is a bounty hunter with some corpses.  He is known for bringing back men dead.  He’s caught in the snow without transportation. 

A stage come by and John Ruth (Kurt Russell). He has his own bounty on board named Daisy (Jennifer Jason Lee). She is very much alive and abused by John.  She is also accused of some serious crimes.  Against his better judgment, John agrees to take both Marquis and his flesh cargo on board. They also pick-up another stranded traveler and a fierce storm nips at their tail.

Eventually, they make it to an outpost just as the storm rages.  There are some people already in the room, including Southern General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern).  As the men settle in to the giant room, the tensions mount. It is an uneasy stalemate.

When some of the men are poisoned, the tensions rise to a dangerous level.  Everyone knows that something is amiss and each are looking at the other for a clue of criminality.   Eventually, someone is killed and the film stops for the intermission.

There will be some in the audience who think that the second half of The Hateful Eight is going to be filled with more talking and finger pointing.  They will be wrong.  After the intermission, the film becomes a blood bath and an explanation of what happened before the travelers got to the lodge.  This part of the film saves a first half which could have been cut down and the film could have been shown without the intermission.  Each part is about ninety and the film could have been a three hour marathon of flickering images.

The first half of The Hateful Eight drags along to the point that at the intermission will have many people just leave.  The second half of the film is a bloodbath to a hideous degree.  If there were no intermission and the first had been trimmed down, it would have been a more effective feature.

But Quentin gets the most from his cast.  Never has Kurt Russell come across as such a mean SOB.  He is abusive to Daisy to an unsettling degree.  Time and time again, he hits her in the mouth.  It is a behavior that churns the acid in the audiences’ stomach. 

Jennifer Jason Lee does not say much but uses her eyes to convey all the emotion of her character.  When she finally let’s go in the second half of the feature, it curdles the blood down to the toes.  This is a performance that should put the actress back in the short list for major motion pictures.  She has spent a good part of her career doing small, independent features.

Quentin makes the most of all his talents but the film just feels like it is trying too hard.  He is trying to make the perfect Western and that has already been done.  The final product feel like it is style over substance.  The best of the genre is about stoic men who are forced into making a tough choice.  This is more about cool shots with people shooting.

In the end, The Hateful Eight is a good movie but not a great motion picture.  It has many elements to make it amazing but faulters in the final product.  Quentin never takes into consideration that saying of “Brevity is the soul of wit” and stretches his cinematic canvas to an uncomfortable degree.

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