Review - The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight (2015), R, 167 minutes (187 minutes Roadshow 70mm) - Quentin Tarantino announced this film in late 2013, about a year after he released 2012's Django Unchained.  Shortly thereafter, the script leaked online and he threatened to cancel the film entirely.  Fortunately for those of us who are fans of his work, he changed his mind after hosting a live reading of the script in Los Angeles and by the end of 2014 had begun production on his eighth feature length film.

The Hateful Eight (which is the second western in Tarantino's stable of films) takes place just years after the Civil War on a Wyoming mountain pass leading to Red Rock and finds a colorful bunch of characters holed up at Minnie's Haberdashery while a nasty blizzard blows by.  This bunch includes two bounty hunters - Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and John 'The Hangman' Ruth (Kurt Russell), their bounties - including Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the new Sheriff of Red Rock Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), the hangman of Red Rock Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), and a couple of other travelers: Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern).  As the stage coach carrying Warren, Ruth, Domergue and Mannix arrives at Minnie's Haberdashery, they are greeted by Bob (Demián Bichir) who claims to be watching over the Haberdashery while Minnie visits family on the other side of the mountain.  Naturally Ruth and Warren are suspicious of the other travelers that they find themselves sharing a roof with.  After all, they're hauling bounties worth a combined $18,000 ($10,000 alone for Daisy Domergue), quite the sum for the time.  Major Warren is also quite familiar with Minnie's Haberdashery and suspects foul play is afoot, causing the middle portion of the film to play out in a Clue-like whodunit murder mystery manner.  As the traveler's begin to feel each other out tempers flare, bullets fly, and extremely colorful verbal barbs are exchanged, just as we have come to expect from a Quentin Tarantino film.

Even though this is his second consecutive western release, Tarantino keeps things unique with The Hateful Eight.  He does implement his familiar chapter presentation, but once everyone arrives at Minnie's the film is relegated to just the one location.  As a result, the film relies heavily on the murder mystery unfolding and the colorful personalities of the characters involved.  The two performances that stand out the most are from Samuel L. Jackson and Walton Goggins.  Major Warren is a complete one-eighty from Jackson's despicable Stephen from Django Unchained, and Goggins' Mannix is the loud-mouth-know-it-all that is obnoxious as hell in real life but quite entertaining on the big screen.  Tarantino veterans Russell, Roth, Madsen, and Dern play their characters expertly, each shining when the story calls for it.  Tarantino newcomer Bichir fits right into the ensemble as though he had worked with the director on a number of other occasions.  We don't know what Daisy Domergue has done to warrant the bounty on her head, but Jennifer Jason Leigh's performance is unhinged enough that one can easily imagine that it was something terrible.  Tarantino himself provides bits of narration beginning in Chapter Four and there's even a Channing Tatum sighting - not someone who would immediately jump to mind when thinking about casting a Quentin Tarantino film.

There are two versions of The Hateful Eight, and both are quite long.  The standard version runs about two hours and forty seven minutes.  The other is presented in select theaters in the 70mm format that Tarantino shot the film in (and clocks in at just over three hours).  There are no theaters in my area that support the 70mm format so I was only able to see the standard version.  I'm a huge Quentin Tarantino fan, but even then The Hateful Eight felt a bit long.  He has always written great dialogue, but I believe that the extremely dialogue-heavy nature of this film caused by the limits of using virtually one location contributes to the slower pace and its feeling as long as it does. That being said, I very much enjoyed The Hateful Eight, as will just about any other Tarantino fan I think.  However, just as with his previous films, if you can't tolerate offensive language or snippets of ultra-violence, then steer clear.  With each film he makes, Quentin Tarantino experiments with new elements, but toning down the language or violence is not one of them.

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