The Hippo


Apr 24, 2019








The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight (R)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

Two bounty hunters, one criminal and a handful of unknowns get trapped in a cabin together during a blizzard in post-Civil War Wyoming in The Hateful Eight, a Quentin Tarantino western that clocks in at nearly three hours long.

Bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is bringing Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) into Red Rock for her trial and likely hanging. Though Ruth tends to pick the “alive” part of the “wanted: dead or alive” bounty hunter instruction, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) tends to play it safer and bring his fugitives in dead, which is why we meet him on the road to Red Rock with several dead and frozen-looking men in a pile on the road. He had been taking them by horse, but his horse had died and now he’s looking for somewhere to wait out the coming blizzard and find new transportation into Red Rock. Skeptically, reluctantly, Ruth lets Warren come aboard — professional courtesy and all. (Ruth and Warren even know each other casually.) 
When another man shows up on the road, however, Ruth demands that Warren handcuff himself, lest the two men be working together to steal Daisy and her $10,000 bounty away. The other man, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), refuses to be handcuffed and demands a ride. He says that he is the sheriff of Red Rock and if either man wants to be paid for their fugitives, they must bring him along.
Because the blizzard is too bad for them to make it all the way to Red Rock, the two bounty hunters, the maybe sheriff, Daisy the criminal and OB (James Parks), the stage coach driver, plan to spend the next few snowy days at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a sort of general store weigh-station on the road to Red Rock. When the bunch gets to the store, Minnie isn’t there but a Mexican named Bob (Demian Bichir) says he has been left in charge. Also at Minnie’s are an old Confederate general (Bruce Dern), a quiet cowboy (Michael Madsen) and a chatty British guy who says he’s Red Rock’s hangman (Tim Roth). Both Ruth and Warren are pretty certain not all is right at Minnie’s and that at least one of the men is there to help Daisy break free. 
Somewhere in the nearly three self-indulgent hours of film, there is probably a fun 90-minute B-movie western about characters who are varying shades of villain in a locked-room mystery. Sure, that movie would probably still be violent and overly liberal with the use of the n-word, both in a way that is actually more lazy than daring, but that movie would be an enjoyable movie to watch. As it is, The Hateful Eight feels too shaggy and self-conscious in its assumed artsiness to be really fun. This isn’t just a movie that shows you the math, it also shows you the trees being cut down to turn into paper and pencil. It shows you the moment of conception of the math teacher. It is so caught up with its own story-telling details, so in love with making sure we laugh at the same joke a couple of times or notice the particular blerb of blood, that the forward momentum of the story is regularly stalled.
There is also a weird sense in this movie that we in the audience are only a few years away from having seen and thrilled to Pulp Fiction. Immaturity? Is that what it is? I’m not sure that’s exactly the right word for the way Tarantino uses violence and race in this movie, but overall I was left with the feeling that this movie’s approach to both feels almost cutesy, like Tarantino is still the indie director trying to show off how daring he is. (Actually, I call BS on the idea that this movie is really saying anything about race, for all that it has its characters talk about the Civil War or call Jackson’s character the n-word. Like the violence and the blood spatter, anything race-related seems all about shock value without a single smarter or deeper aspect.)
This is not to say that The Hateful Eight is a failure as a movie or even as a piece of entertainment. It does have its moments. I could totally watch a movie that is just called Walton Goggins Says Things. There isn’t one part of this movie that is even as good as his weakest scenes in Justified but he’s still a good time generally. Once, I might have said the same thing about Samuel L. Jackson, but in this movie he demonstrates that you really can watch an actor do the same fun thing too many times. Just as less movie would have been a better movie, less of Samuel L. Jackson doing a version of his Jules Winnfield Pulp Fiction character would have made this feel a little fresher. And while plenty of what happens here is not just telegraphed well in advance but printed in a fully illustrated book and read to the audience with cookies and milk in advance, there are a few plot twists that give the movie a bit of narrative zest.
And for all that not nearly enough thought appears to be given about the necessity of each scene or stretch of dialogue, Tarantino clearly puts an impressive amount of thought into nearly every visual, every design choice, every bit of font in the movie’s opening credits, the score. I wish more in the movie was as deliberate. 
There’s a lot in this movie I could live without — Tarantino’s late-movie narration, the chapter divisions, the stilted acting choices some of the actors made and, of course, at least a good hour of the movie itself. But, for Tarantino fans, the excesses are, on the balance, probably worth sitting through to get to this unevenly cooked roast’s tastier cuts. C+
Rated R for strong bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight is about 2 hours and 55 minutes long (when viewed without the intermission) and is distributed by The Weinstein Company.  

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