By James Embree
The Tarantino legacy of bastards only continues in The Hateful Eight riddled with characters that substitute time bombs for personalities, and as the plot unfolds it’s only a matter of seeing which one goes off first, second, and so on. That shouldn’t imply predictability or even a lack of entertainment value in this film.
In a Pulp Fiction fashion we still get the witty banter and quotable dialogue as to develop these bastards, while we get to decide which one we think the hero is, as none of them are ever truly innocent and they each has something to hide.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins
Review: Three of four stars
Key quote: “A basterd’s work is never done,” Michael Madsen states bluntly at a threat, echoing the posters of Tarantino’s self-described masterpiece Inglourious Basterds.
As the film opens, we are given the “White Hell” that is present for the next three hours. An endless blizzard of a plot device keeping the ensemble behind closed doors; moreover, you can hear the howling wind almost constantly.
Bounty hunter John Ruth (Russell) is taking murderer Daisy Domergue (Leigh) to Red Rock Wyoming. He could’ve killed her, but like a serial killer or a hit man, he got a certain thrill from hearing the neck snap.
They pick up Marquis Warren, a fellow bounty hunter who will prove to be one of the most level-headed and rational of the group, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t as vengeful and bloodthirsty as any other Western character.
They then pick up yet another man, Chris Mannix (Goggins), the apparent new sheriff of Red Rock whose reputation is either tainted or improved by his father’s military efforts, depending on who you talk to.
The group, now five including the driver, after long and tense dialog sequences, end up at the claustrophobic Minnie’s Haberdashery, whose staff is mysteriously away at the time.
It is here that the film becomes a mystery disguised as a Western. They meet four more characters, all vastly different. Their one common factor is that John Ruth doesn’t trust any of them; he barely trusted the people he came with, least of all the woman he has chained to his arm.
He’s convinced that somebody there is working with her. Whether or not he’s being paranoid, he’d never take away the chance just by killing Domergue, that’d be too easy.
Aside from that, The Hateful Eight is, boldly enough, a conversation piece that could have easily been a stage play, with tension building with every small spoken idea, often with wildfire results put out with a bullet.
It even splits up into separate acts and is proceeded with narration. Very little that is said is devoid of meaning or substance to the character’s lives or motivations, but you always feel like the result will be just the same.
The bravery continues through the actual story and production, acting as possibly Tarantino’s most realistically morbid film to date. While realism is not unwelcome, the campy signature of Tarantino’s work doesn’t always compliment it, but the more triumphant moments of this will continue to be relished in multiple replays.
There is a comically delightful amount of gore in this movie, that while directly contradicting the serious tone gives us a refreshing break from it.
Some may be disappointed with certain story elements, particularly certain revelations and the conclusion. They feel too easy, too quick. The easiest answers are the right ones in The Hateful Eight. It’s not Tarantino at the top of his form in terms of writing, and while not completely empty of humor it carries less wit, and less substance.
Its narrative and timeline structure, however, is probably one of its strongest links, the flashbacks providing well-employed development in both the characters and plot.
While it may not fit the Tarantino mold that’s been placed on a pedestal for over two decades, it does announce more diversity in what is apparently the twilight of the 52-year-old filmmaker’s career. While the execution is wanting, the change in form is to be praised.