The things you’d do for a blanket, hey?!
Quentin Tarantino just can’t help himself. You know what’s coming, you just can’t be sure when it’s coming or who’s going to be dishing it out… but it’s coming alright!
The Hateful Eight is a part who dunnit, part who’s gonna do it. A long, but very watchable three hours and seven minutes of classic Tarantino.
A stagecoach, winding its way through the snowy wilds of Wyoming en route to Redrock is stopped in its tracks. Its occupants – bounty hunter and ‘hangman’ John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner and ‘bounty’ Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) – reluctantly allow on board first infamous bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) complete with his deceased bounty, followed shortly afterwards by stranded Sheriff-elect, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), both of whom have good reason for hitching a ride, not least the impending blizzard that’s closing in.
A scheduled pit-stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery – a homely cabin in the middle of nowhere – not only breaks up their long journey, but offers them all welcome shelter from the rapidly worsening storm.
Anyone that was expecting a warm, Minnie’s Haberdashery welcome, however, is going to be disappointed.
On arrival, curiously, there is no Minnie, just a gathering of rather capricious individuals, each of whom is quietly seeing out the storm; each in their own way.
A real tension builds in the air as this assortment of rough and ready characters, none of whom are in any way ready to divulge their true intentions or part with their hard-earned bounty, mentally ‘feel’ each other out; the perfect sort of setting one may argue, for Tarantino to weave his devious spell before unleashing the inevitable carnage.
But Tarantino is in no rush here. He’s playing the long game, keeping us all waiting…
This slow-burn approach is one that pays big dividends, allowing a more comprehensive development of what is a very strong ensemble cast; every one of its members given space and time to reveal their own twisted story, be that willingly or otherwise.
Major Warren is no nonsense in his manner. Oswaldo Mowbray (Tim Roth) is an apparently well-to-do English gent, and a slightly unhinged one at that. ‘Sheriff’ Mannix is an unlikeable racist by nature. General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern) is an old, somewhat misanthropic war veteran minding his own business by the open fire, whilst John Ruth is a gruff outlaw interested in but one thing – his impending payday – and Lord help anyone that steps in his way.
Daisy Domergue on the other hand is a wild character. Her mischievous and blase attitude to her predicament belies the gravity of her impending fate at the hangman’s noose and raises our suspicions that all is not quite as it seems in the cabin.
Director Quentin Tarantino has always reminded me a lot of Andy Robinson’s deranged character in the 1971 classic, Dirty Harry; all mad-eyed, overly-excitable with a maniacal laugh. I’ll stop short of accusing him of being a psychopathic murderer. That’s unsubstantiated!
All aboard the school bus folks. Altogether now… “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream…SING DAMNIT!!!!”
I can just picture Quentin directing The Hateful Eight. Eyes bulging, jumping high out of his director’s chair, screeching like a crazed baboon as finally he lets the gruesome stuff unfold… in waves; and Good Lord does it unfold.
It’s all good fun though, terrifically entertaining, and predictably, its ‘s messy as hell, but it’s arguable whether one can really achieve true emotional engagement with The Hateful Eight’s weird and wonderful collection of characters. They’re certainly well drawn, each with their own well thought out back stories, each having their own particular quirks and peculiarities, and there’s collectively excellent interaction on screen as you’d expect from such a stella cast.
But do we truly care about their fate or are we just playing the usual Tarantino ‘count the bodies’ game?
Perhaps that’s not so important and is in fact missing the point? Maybe so.
Tarantino after all knows how to make us squirm; to make us feel a high level of discomfort, tapping with, at times, alarming ease into our inner fears and concerns; and engaging the audience in that way. I’d argue that that’s engagement enough.
The Hateful Eight is underpinned by the sparse yet evocative strains of an Ennio
Morricone soundtrack – never a bad thing – together with a smattering of songs, no doubt once again cherry-picked from Mr Tarantino’s own personal record collection. It all combines to lend The Hateful Eight both class and sophistication, further enhancing its credentials and standing, but I’d be lying if I said that this picture quite rises into the realms of greatness, as good as it is and as entertaining as it undoubtedly proves to be.
It’s not quite up there with Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown, but then again, what is? Tarantino has never quite been able to ascend to those heady heights, as hard as he’s tried since, but The Hateful Eight is unquestionably a very good film.
A big, thick slice of entertainment and thoroughly recommended.