The Hateful Eight
Director Quentin Tarantino once again delves into the western genre (to some degree) approximately 8 years after his pre-civil war story in “Django Unchained” film with a post-civil war story called “The Hateful Eight”.
In "The Hateful Eight," a lone and totally isolate stagecoach is moving as fast as it can through the bitter cold and wintry landscape of Wyoming. Inside we discover there are two passengers; one is the bounty hunter named John Ruth aka “The Hangman” (Kurt Russell) and his filthy looking and murderous fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). They are racing towards the WY town of Red Rock where Ruth is bringing Domergue to justice.
Along the same wintry mountainous road, they come across two strangers: First Major Marquis Warren (Samuel Jackson), a black former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter whose horse had died and shortly later the second stranger Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) a southern renegade who claims to be Red Rock’s new Sheriff whose horse has oddly died as well.
Together they all four ride the now cramp stage coach in what they hope is the warm stopover called “Minnie's Haberdashery” which is located high up on a mountain pass on their way to Red Rock. When all the principles eventually arrive at Minnie's, they are greeted not by Minnie the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces. One named Bob aka “The Mexican” (Demian Bichir) who is taking care of Minnie's establishment while she’s visiting her mother; an erudite sort of character named Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) who establishes himself as the actual employed hangman of Red Rock; a moody cow-puncher named Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) who is writing a novel about himself and finally a gray hired grizzly former Confederate General named Sanford Smithers (Dern) who makes it clear he hates anyone affiliated with the Union Army and “Ns” aka African Americans.
As all of the mysterious figures settle in for the harsh and cold night from the blizzard snow storm these eight travelers soon come to learn there is secret someone is keeping that may not allow some if not all of them to make it to Red Rock after all.
MY OBSERVATIONS: I went in to this movie thinking I would be somewhat disappointed. After all Rotten Tomato has a collective score of about 75 with some critics scoring it with comments (which I read after writing my own) seeming to suggest they not only disliked this latest film of QT’s, but seem to relish also in suggesting he has lost his skill in making interesting future films altogether………………. Aaaaaah their all freaking nuts. And while I would say this is not Quentin’s best work, I challenge anyone to tell me you have seen 10 better films all year. Here is my more in depth take on “The Hateful Eight”.
TH8 is a clever humorous, dark, satirical and dramatic mix of Agatha Christie, William Shakespeare, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (aka Sherlock Holmes) novels with the structural context of the 1957 film classic “Twelve Angry Men” which delved into matters of group suspicion, guilt and innocence among forcibly confined total strangers. Specifically, all of these giants of literature, the theater and film created memorable characters all developed from fictional scratch where their personalities, appearances and mannerisms help develop and enhance who they all are to an eventually revelation of personal motives under an intricate plot mystery. QT takes this foundation to make his TH8 story into a fascinatingly odd tale with no shortage of creativity and imagination, all the while weaving a rather intricate tale of huge socio-political, sexual and racial commentary that is not only applicable for that time period but for today as well. And he takes on these delicate issues with a sly and subtle sardonic condemnation of those who hold these attitudes rooted in old antiquated traditions, ignorance and sometimes downright ugliness in the simple context of 8 seemingly unrelated characters being stuck in a cold cabin.
Does TH8 have its moments where the writing and plot strays somewhat? Yes, but ever so briefly and not worth even mentioning at all.
First, the 70mm format that TH8 was shot in is stunning. And while 90% of the movie is shot inside the cabin-esque “Minnie's Haberdashery”, both the exterior and interior scenes are rich in detail and color.
Secondly, there are two running jokes in the film that deal with a mysterious letter and a wooden door that never failed to make me laugh out loud and or hold my interest throughout the film’s 3:02 running time.
Third, Samuel Jackson is essentially the star of the film as he is a mix of the Outlaw Josey Wales, Peter Falk’s TV police detective persona Lt. Columbo and his former “Pulp Fiction hired killer Jules Winnfield. Specifically, think if Jules decided against “waking the earth” in retirement and instead got his law degree; you would have the consciousness of his Major Marquis Warren.
Fourth, Walton Goggins, proved to be more than capable adding considerable weight to a feature film as QT takes his character “Mannix and moves him beyond his initial southern redneck persona into something far more surprising and interesting overall. He gives a very funny and introspective performance here I did not see coming.
Fifth, Jennifer Jason-Leigh clearly has the best chance of all of the ensemble list of cast characters to garner some Oscar consideration with a possible Best Supporting acting nomination. Once again like John Travolta, QT may have given an actor a second act chance for new stardom with her funny, vulgar and provocative turn as the murderous “Daisy Domergue”.
And finally sixth, I found it a bit amusing that Christoph Waltz of “Inglorious Bastards” and “Django Unchained” fame must not have been available to shoot in this latest QT effort. Meaning, it was a bit amusing how much Tim Roth does as close of an impression (intentional or not) of the two time Oscar winner Waltz and how he would of played the jovial and cheery Oswaldo Mobray through his Waltz like mannerisms and vocal sounds.
WARNING: If you have any disdain for the use of the “N’ word or the “B” word, then I suggest that you not only don’t see TH8, but drive about two hundred miles in the opposite direction of your local theater that is showing it just to avoid it. To say TH8 is saturated with both these words throughout is not only an understatement, it would be the obvious equivalent saying the oceans are saturated with fish………………Both are in the film almost every 10th word.
CONCLUSION: I know some of you who may take my advice to see this will think I may have missed my mark on this review and not like it as much as I did. Others of you may in fact agree with me. However, after spending an entire day before writing up my comments about this film (which I rarely do), I do know that I could not forget huge whole sections of this film, with its snappy and intricate dialogue, provocative plot and beautiful vista and interior sceneries. But more important than that, what I will remember is I like this QT effort better than “Django Unchained” and what I had witnessed for those three hours yesterday was not so much a featured film, but rather a fabulously written entertaining “Six Act Theatric Play”, that was inventive, distinctive and filed with lots of gags, guns and swagger. Oh, did I forget lots of blood too. It happens after the intermission in blood splattering “Carrie” bucket loads.
TH8 conjures up the genius of western fame director Sergio Leone and a noir pulp crime story of writer Elmore Leonard – it’s a big drama in a very small room. It thrills with darkness, humor and an abundance of smart aleck repartee and jousting wordplay. But more than anything it reaffirms QT as never being conventional. He is a risk taker not afraid of showcasing his quintessential story telling vison through an unpredictable and un-quintessential alternate universe life prism, along with a screenplay that is adroitly rich in dramatic verbal detail that is also funny with its intricate laced obscenities. Th8 simultaneously will shock you, as well as make you think in that same immediate moment.
Finally, I make a habit of leaving the theater almost immediately as soon as I see the first credits go up the screen. As I turned the corner yesterday to exit the room down the dark hall way to the exit, just over my left shoulder – just over my left ear, I heard the sound of applause....................Its not just me who liked it a lot.