The Hateful Eight is, fittingly, Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film, and by far his weakest.
A callback to Tarantino’s first film, the one-room crime drama Reservoir Dogs, The Hateful Eight mostly takes place in a cabin–a haberdashery–in post-Civil War Wyoming. The story is set-up by the introduction of John Ruth (Kurt Russell), a bounty hunter known as “The Hangman,” who is delivering outlaw Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the town of Red Rock, Wyoming. On the way, he encounters Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and the ostensible new sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). Once they arrive at Minnie’s Haberdashery, we are introduced to more characters: Bob (Demián Bichir), hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern).
Like other Tarantino films, The Hateful Eight is playful with genre and pastiche. As with Django Unchained, he tinkers with a mix of western and mystery. The result is painfully long, and perhaps a bit too fetishistic with its exhibition (the film is preceded by a 5-minute overture, and contains, in some prints, a mostly unnecessary 10-minute intermission).
While the film is weakened by Tarantino’s flair for excessive exposition and long-buildups, The Hateful Eight boasts a formidable cast. The most impressive here is the oft-forgotten and seriously underrated Jennifer Jason Leigh. Unfortunately, her character spends an inordinate amount of time being physically assaulted by the various characters, which is often played for laughs. Tarantino has often been accused of misogyny, though his films often portray women in strong roles (Jackie Brown, his most underrated work, and Kill Bill). But here, the normalization of violence against women is too strong to ignore.
Tarantino’s usual cinephilia is on display here (his use of composer Ennio Morricone is well-placed), but his talent is not. The Hateful Eight is well-acted, but lacks the control and playful creativity of his previous films.
Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple:
Mark Barber: @WorstCinephile