Film - The Hateful Eight

Hateful Eight

"Got room for one more?" Nate McKenzie watches Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight (without any hateful spoilers)...

I remember a time, seemingly so long ago, when Quentin Tarantino was the North Star for wannabe filmmakers and movie buffs. He was an icon whose fans gulped down every serving. A student of every film sub-genre from the 60s and 70s, Tarantino quickly became a muse to every film school neophyte, and his early films are seminal works for those that saw him as the anti-Hollywood filmmaker. Ever since Reservoir Dogs Tarantino has been revered by movie nerds the world over.

That is why I find it so strange that these same people, who at one point would have stood in line for days just to cup his balls, are now unimpressed with the finished products that Tarantino has offered - nay, bestowed on us - as of late.

The Hateful Eight is the eighth film from Quentin Tarantino and is his fifth in the last ten years. The story is thus:

A bounty hunter named John "The Hangman" Ruth (Kurt Russell) is transporting a bounty, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to a town called Red Rock, Wyoming to be tried and hanged for murder. Trying to beat a storm, they stop their stage coach just long enough to pick up another bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) who is transporting three not-so-alive bounties to the same destination. In a twist of fate, they encounter the as-yet-to-be-pinned Sheriff Chris Mannix of Red Rock (Walton Goggins), stranded way out in the middle of the wilderness and end up giving him a ride as well.

Unable to beat the storm, they end up stopping for shelter at a place called Minnie's Haberdashery. Minnie's is already occupied by four nefarious looking strangers... but no Minnie.

This is when Tarantino-ish things begin to take place.

Meaning people drink, cuss and possibly someone gets bloodied and/or shot. That isn't exactly a load of plot point spoilers.

The movie has a runtime of 2 hours and 47 minutes. That sounds like a long time but it sure didn't feel like an almost three hour movie. About one hour into the movie I felt like I was still being prepped by exposition, but without the boredom of a filmmakers self-indulgence. The way time passes when you're having dinner with some friends and everyone is chatting and the conversation is deep without drowning and sharp without stabbing is the way this movie flows. Although the dialogue isn't quite up to Tarantino's usual standard, there is plenty of wit and a few stinging barbs like we have come to expect.

The story itself is complex. Many are comparing The Hateful Eight to Reservoir Dogs. I, too, drew those comparisons in my own mind while viewing. But, I didn't run out into the theater lobby and yell "I liked it better the first time I saw it - when it was called Reservoir Dogs!" as if I was the first person ever to make that very simplistic, and sneeringly pedantic, observation. Sure, the two films have a lot in common. But The Hateful Eight and Reservoir Dogs are also similar in structure and theme to 1985's Clue. One of the main themes of the film is isolation and in that regard, The Thing would be a much better comparison. (As a point of fact, Tarantino has stated that The Thing was a heavy influence on this film.)

However, the movie that The Hateful Eight most reminds me of is The Usual Suspects. But no one would dare spit on The Usual Suspects as being a ripoff of Reservoir Dogs, even though they have heavy similarities. I guess it is fine for Bryan Singer to borrow elements from Quentin Tarantino but not for Quentin Tarantino to borrow from Quentin Tarantino.

There are flaws in The Hateful Eight. The "chapters" were jumbled and the narration was pervasive and did have the effect of drawing me out of the story a little bit. I think that both of those shortcomings are more than rectified by the character dialogue and the complexity of the story.

One of my favorite elements of The Hateful Eight is that it addresses and solves one of my biggest gripes with gangster/western/heist films: When confronted with a dilemma, Major Marquis Warren only waits so long to find out the truth... before he just starts shooting people, like I always wish they would in movies. It's the "Don't run up the stairs, run out the front door!" syndrome, but fixed: "Don't let them talk their way out of this, shoot them in the face!" Thank all deities for Sam Jackson.

One of my favourite movies is Unforgiven. I won't say The Hateful Eight is better, or even just as good as Unforgiven, but it definitely warrants mentioning in the same breath. It isn't perfect. But expecting perfection is the reason people have come to deride terrific films. I know that click-bait articles are all the rage, and Twitter is an easy outlet for smarmy little twits with snide opinions, but the internet is full of too many people clamouring over each other to tell everyone how terrible an enjoyable film is.

The Hateful Eight is a solid movie, with great actors, beautiful cinematography, powerful ambiance, and a storyline that dances like a saloon patron doing the Six Gun Two-Step. If you can't appreciate that I am not sure why you even watch movies.

Image - IMDb