People out there may crucify me, but I have a massive love/hate relationship with Quinton Tarantino’s work, and The Hateful Eight is a perfect example of why.
While most see Mr. Tarantino as a filmmaker who pushes the boundaries in every facet of his projects (which to some degree, I agree with), I’ve found his more recent films to be overindulgent extensions of his filmmaking fetishes that end up hampering what could be brilliant pieces of cinema, making me feel his following is more cult than credit.
I love Tarantino’s focus on characterisation pieces, heavily emphasised with roller-coaster dialogue and subtle gestures. Django Unchained was a great example of this. While some consider it not his best work, Django Unchained left behind a lot of the director’s notable idiosyncrasies around lingering scenes and campy film techniques, for a more focused, action-oriented film, packed full of clever dialogue and social commentary.
So it’s not hard to understand that the premise of The Hateful Eight got me (and many others) excited. The return to a Western setting in which some interestingly diabolical characters are forced into a situational conundrum by having to share a confined space is something quite intriguing; not to mention the fantastic cast filling the boots of the titular characters.
The Hateful Eight is essentially a drawing-room mystery set some years after the Civil War at a stagecoach stop called Minnie’s Haberdashery, where a group of stock Western types are waiting out a snowstorm. Last on the scene are bounty hunters John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and Col. Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson). Ruth is transporting Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a murderer he’s bringing in for a big payday in the nearby town, Red Rock. Upon arrival at the Haberdashery, the two bounty hunters suspect right away that they’ve walked into some kind of set-up, but can’t figure out who’s in on it.
The first half of the ‘whodunnit’ scenario showcases some genuinely interesting dialogue, mysterious and intriguing characters, and some incredible cinematography thanks to the wide-angle 70mm film stock Tarantino campaigned to shoot in. However, the remainder of the movie is overloaded with the grotesque – both violent and sexual – along with some pseudo-deep racial tension that doesn’t really add up, and some unnecessarily extended shots that contribute nothing to the film.
One of the worst moments, which kind of epitomises the overindulgent problems with the film, comes when Tarantino himself narrates the one scene to fill in some details about what’s happening on-screen. It’s contrived, gratuitous, and undermines the intelligence of the audience, giving the viewers a helping-hand rather than showing them a visual cue.
The sad thing about The Hateful Eight is that the milieu put forth by Tarantino could’ve been the incubator for his best work yet, but he surrounds the moments of brilliance with his dizzying over-injection of Tarantino-ness that leaves The Hateful Eight a forgettable notch on his belt.