in Review

The Hateful Eight

A few years ago some bloggers thought it would be cool to share the script of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight online, which was such a dick move the writer/director said he wanted to abandon the project. Eventually he decided to stage a reading with some of his favorite actors, and that could have been it. The Hateful Eight is very theatrical, the closest Tarantino has ever gotten to a play, so that probably would have been an acceptable end of the road. Instead, he decided to make it into a lavish cinematic event.

So, yes, we did go see The Hateful Eight roadshow, which meant I saw it on 70mm film, got a little souvenir booklet with a Tim Roth centerfold, and enjoyed an overture, intermission, and some additional footage. It’s possible all those factors made the movie seem better than it actually is, but then again I also paid almost $20 for my ticket and expected my money’s worth, so who knows?

The real interesting thing about The Hateful Eight‘s presentation is that it is one of Tarantino’s least sprawling movies, rivalling Reservoir Dogs for largest portion of the movie set in one location. In this case, that setting is a cabin in Wyoming in the middle of a blizzard. You get to know this space pretty well over the movie’s epic runtime, and it’s a testament to the director’s skill in staging and composition that I never grew tired of the various conversations and hijinks staged within. Also the writing, but that’s kind of a given at this point.

John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is a bounty hunter bringing in Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to hang in the town of Red Rock. On his journey, he runs into a fellow bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and a supposed sheriff (Walton Goggins) before they take shelter in a lodge while the blizzard bears down on them. There we meet the other bastards who are also stuck waiting out the storm, and the game is afoot: are some of them hoping to steal Ruth’s bounty? Are some of them in league with Domergue? I mean, probably, right?

On our way home from the theater, it dawned on me that The Hateful Eight was sort of Tarantino’s way to stretching the best parts of The Thing into a western. It’s got the isolated, claustrophobic setting, complete with the unrelenting cold of winter outside. Basically the whole movie is the infamous blood testing scene, as Ruth tries to determine who he can trust and who he should fear, just like Russell did as MacReady in that 1982 film. There are more similarities, but that would require spoiling stuff, so I’ll just keep thinking myself quite clever.

But I will say that if the movie had a weakness, it’s that Tarantino ended up going with kind of the expected Tarantino ending with plenty of horrific, gratuitous violence. I’m not sure this movie deserved that and it comes at the expense of more character development, which was so much of what I liked about The Hateful Eight. Despite the implications of the movie’s title, I kind of hoped there would be some redemption here. But, as they say, haters gonna hate.