Front seat: The Eight of hateArchive
The Hateful Eight starts off as a gorgeous looking western, shot by three time Academy Award-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson in the deliciously vintage 70mm widescreen format. The opening sequences involving actors Samuel L. Jackson (Major Marquis Warren aka ‘The Bounty Hunter’), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Daisy Domergue aka ‘The Prisoner’), Kurt Russell (John Ruth aka ‘The Hangman’), Walton Goggins (Sheriff Chris Mannix aka ‘The Sheriff’) and a stagecoach are so beautifully filmed, you can almost feel the moisture of the spotless white snow on the tip of your tongue.
Equally delicious is the film’s setup. The opening chapters of The Hateful Eight shall leave any fan of old-school spaghetti westerns salivating at the prospect of a good old yarn. The premise is made all the more enticing considering the film’s winter setting, an unusual though not a totally unfamiliar prospect for the genre.
But just like a two-timing scoundrel from a cowboy adventure, the opening sequences of The Hateful Eight deceive, for this isn’t a western at all, but a dark and tense mystery film. While the first 40 minutes or so promise a story set in the outdoors, the final two hours, which are the meat of this fun-to-chew-but-difficult-to-swallow steak, are a desperately claustrophobic affair set inside a chilly cabin.
Here, the cast is joined by familiar actors such as Channing Tatum (Jody Domergue), Tim Roth [Oswaldo Mobray (English Pete Hicox) aka ‘The Little Man’], Michael Madsen [Joe Gage (Grouch Douglass) aka ‘The Cow Puncher’], Bruce Dern (General
Sanford “Sandy” Smithers aka ‘The Confederate’)
and more. Are there more than eight? To be honest, I lost count.
The Hateful Eight is without doubt a Quentin Tarantino film. As you can tell, for one it features an ensemble cast of incredibly talented actors familiar with the American director’s work, perfectly cast here as horribly unsavory characters.
The film also features scenes of long and sometimes stimulating dialog, a minor fantasy revision of American history, angry social commentary, extremely violent sequences featuring gratuitous bloody violence, profanity and, of course, regular use of racial slurs.
Was I disappointed when The Hateful Eight shifted saddles from a western into a mystery? You bet your rootin’ tootin’ country lovin’ tastebuds. We had some fantastic actors playing gunslingers, the likes of criminals and bounty hunters, and they spend the majority of the film engaging in discourse. Of course, this was before Quentin Tarantino decided that he had had enough, and it was time for just about everyone to meet a torturous death.
If you will excuse the pun, The Hateful Eight can also be very hateful. Jennifer Jason Leigh is regularly beaten by the bounty hunter who took her in, though grins through it regularly in some sort of warped commentary on sexism. The film also employs the use of the ‘N’ word often, which doesn’t make sense in context of the film’s setting.
As a writer Quentin
Tarantino is usually brilliant, and while the dialog here is engaging, one can’t help but feel that this isn’t the maestro’s best work, for many of the exchanges seem self-indulgent and even a little sloppy. Similarly, the violence is as outrageous as that of Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, yet lacks the same purpose or flow.
I suppose, in a sense, watching The Hateful Eight is a bit like riding a horse aimlessly; you are in for some entertainment, but aren’t quite going anywhere.
Rated R for strong bloody violence, some explicit content, language and graphic nudity
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, January 24th, 2016