What It’s About
Director-Screenwriter Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” owes as much to Agatha Christie as epic westerns of another era.
Set a few years after the Civil War, eight travelers are forced to spend time together in a remote cabin in Wyoming until a blizzard subsides. But are they who they say they are? Who is hiding secrets and who has ulterior motives?
Tarantino’s favorite movie of all-time is “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly,” and that’s what he shoots for here, only in an “And Then There Were None” staged play feel.
This twisty tale is a well-done yarn with a dandy ensemble. But it’s not his best, lacking the punch of ‘Inglourious Basterds” or ‘Django Unchained.”
Bloody and dark, of course, this wild ride is immersed in the genre, with old-timey touches that are refreshing to experience.
Trying to recreate a moviegoing experience similar to a special event in the 1960s, the film was shot in 70mm Panavision, in a format known as Cinerama. This is how people experienced “How the West Was Won” back in the day.
The film opens with an overture, and composer extraordinaire Ennio Morricone’s music score is indeed a highlight. The music master is responsible for some of the most iconic music on screen — “Once Upon a Time in the West” and classic Sergio Leone films.
The grandeur of the open frontier is short-lived as a stagecoach carrying grizzled bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner, mangy murderer Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), heads to Red Rocks, where she will be hanged. A couple guys hitch a ride — loquacious Union soldier turned bounty hunter Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and excitable Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins), who claims to be the next sheriff in Red Rocks.
They are forced to stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery because of weather conditions, but instead of Minnie inside, there is a twitchy, wild bunch — Hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), cowpoke Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), crusty Confederate Civil War General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern) and Bob the Mexican (Demian Bichir), who is waiting on everyone.
Nobody trusts each other, and as the evening wears on, in “Clue” fashion, a mystery unfolds. There is more talk than action, with characters digging in to Tarantino’s trademark dialogue with relish. But when violence erupts, it is brutal and gross.
So who will make it out of there and on to Red Rocks, as deceit, betrayal and true identities are revealed?
Tarantino’s usual suspects — Jackson, Russell, Roth and Madsen — are in fine form, but newcomers Walton Goggins and Jennifer Jason Leigh grab the acting honors here. Goggins, known for TV’s “Justified” and “Sons of Anarchy,” stands out as the defensive lawman desperate to prove he is indeed the new sheriff in town.
Leigh (“Single White Female”) can convincingly play a psychopath. In this tale, she is just as mean as any of the guys, snarling like a mad dog, and endures being knocked around by ruthless Ruth.
Tarantino likes to bring back faded stars of another era, and his use of Dern is a smart move. Western veteran Lee Horsley is featured in a supporting role, as is matinee idol Channing Tatum.
For a guy who loves movies as much as Tarantino does, he sure knows how to tell a story while honoring other works. His casting always comes through.
What Doesn’t Work
His liberal use of the “N-word” is distracting, and not necessary, no matter what historical context is defended.
Is three hours necessary to tell this story? No. Too much grandstanding takes place. Tarantino is not known for cutting to the chase, but showboating is obvious in his eighth feature.
In this contained setting, he tries too hard to be a show pony. “The Hateful Eight” has its moments, but there is a disconnect that prevents it from the greatness it aspires to achieve.
‘The Hateful Eight’
- Director: Quentin Tarantino
- Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Demian Bichir and Channing Tatum.
- Rated: R for strong bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.
- 187 minutes, with an intermission
- Note: The movie opened exclusively in 70mm on Dec. 25 at Ronnie's 20 Cine in St. Louis. The movie, not in 70mm, opens at other theaters on Dec. 31.