Quentin Tarantino has a reputation. We all know what it is. We all know that he likes hyper-violent homages to grindhouse, exploitation and Kung Fu films. Hateful 8 billed as Tarantino’s 8th film also has a reputation, first for being cancelled after a script leak then for being placed into production after Tarantino directed a live read. The film was released a while ago to mostly positive reviews I am going to ask the question, does the Hateful 8 live up to the hype and its directors reputation?
Set sometime after the American civil war, eight characters find themselves trapped in a
stagecoach station thanks to a blizzard. Two of these eight are John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) a bounty hunter with a reputation for bring his bounties in alive, and his bounty Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). However one of the eight is not who they appear to be and may be working to free Domergue. Que a mystery ala And Then There Where None with a Tarantino edge.
To answer the question right off the bat, it is a little complicated. Firstly yes, Hateful 8 is drenched in gore and nostalgia for the ultra-violent exploitation movies, a style that Tarantino is well known for. Cinematographer Robert Richardson shot on 70mm film,
which is twice the width of standard film, the movie allows for some fantastic shot composition and stunning vistas. There are some really great visuals in the film, for example, there is a shot of the cabin in the snow storm, it is back lit to give the whole setting a great atmosphere somewhat reminiscent of another film starring Kurt Russel being isolated in the middle of nowhere with someone who isn’t as they first appear. It is a shame then that the film restricts itself to a one room cabin. The music is perhaps the best thing about the film, composed by Ennio Morricone a spaghetti western great, adds to the visual and audio recreation of classic westerns. Unfortunately these are the only positive comments I feel remotely comfortable making, because the rest of the film is a literal and a figurative mess, so secondly No.
The film is poorly passed and toned. At the beginning of the Hateful 8 it feels like there is going to be a great murder mystery plot with Samuel L Jackson playing detective. However when the lacklustre twist is revealed, it changes the entire film for the worse. It descends into a mindless orgy of blood, brains and death without the sharpness and tension of the first half. Finally it concludes in an entirely baffling character reveal and clichéd ending that you could see coming from the moment Tarantino announced the films premise. The actors seem to struggle with their characters, and while most do a fine job, giving the audiences little gems that show how talented the cast is, the script lacks that sparkle of wit and fun we have come to accept from Tarantino alongside copious amounts of fake blood. There is no one to like in the entire film, but I suppose that is the point of a film called the Hateful 8. However this is damaging for a murder mystery as we are at least supposed to care a little for characters that are in mortal danger.
Someone over at YouTube channel “Now You See It” made the argument that the cinema
scene in Tarantino’s World War Two romp Inglorious Basterds is making a comment on consumption of violence. If we extrapolate that argument out to this film, I would argue that Tarantino has become self-aware, and realised that he can make anything and audiences will just lap it up, no matter how poor it is, because it’s a Quentin Tarantino film. I felt like Tarantino had his middle finger shoved right in my face for the last half of the film, insulting me, screaming about how much I like the violence and blood, condemning me for liking it while he gleefully caved in peoples skulls and shot peoples balls off. By the end I was not sure which film was more sickening Hateful 8 or The Revenant. But probably Hateful 8 as I was morally and physically repulsed.