If there’s one way to describe Quintin Tarantino’s latest film, ‘Hateful Eight’, it’s as an instant cult classic. Set some time after the “unconditional surrender” that ended the American Civil War in the middle of a Wyoming winter, the movie opens on a carriage attempting to outrun a blizzard. In this carriage is bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner, Daisy (Jennifer Jason Leigh). On the road to the town of Red Rock they encounter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a former union soldier now turned bounty hunter, and soon to be sheriff of Red Rock, southern renegade Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). Trapped tightly in the carriage, violence hangs thick in the air, but Tarantino’s love affair with verbal fencing staves the inevitable bloodshed.
This opening is quite tedious and long winded, though quite clever in dialogue and very much sets the scene and pace for the entire movie. Each word drips with the history of the west, of violence, misogyny, racism and heavy swearing. At almost three hours long, ‘Hateful Eight’ is a mission at times and will probably only appeal to an audience that enjoys repartee, it isn’t until the half way mark that any action or gore really begins after all.
The ‘Hateful Eight’ is told entirely in two settings, the carriage and Minnie’s Haberdashery, a traveller’s stopping point where the four aforementioned, and driver, meet with the rest of the cast; Senor Bob (Demian Bichir), an elderly confederate General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), an English executioner Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) and a cowboy visiting his mother for Christmas, Joe Gage (Michael Madesn). As the blizzard strands them, cornering them for an estimated number of days, the storyline finally begins to progress. Here the feel becomes less western and more ‘who dunnit’ as someone poisons the coffee.
Acting wise, there is little but praise to be had for all those involved. Each brings a marvellous performance, though the stand out for me was Leigh as the beaten and battered criminal with a hidden agenda. In saying that, the characters they play are stereotypes with no real subtext. Historically, there are some inconsistencies, but it’s a Tarantino film, so I suppose we just ignore these and settle into the stunning cinematography. As per usual the filming is grand with sorted angles, crops, close ups and speed variations. It almost makes up for how long the storyline takes to develop.
‘Hateful Eight’ is incredibly racist, with many stereotypes and racial abuse hurled, along with some serious misogynistic behaviour, however, it was the Wild, Wild West, so it is in context. The ending, without giving it all away, was hurried and seemed like an effort to make up for the earlier pace and lack of death and blood. Even the points that were probably supposed to shock; the brutality towards the only female character and the constant dropping of ‘nigger’, seemed overdone and almost fetishized as the characters reacted with glee and smugness.
This is a film that is sure to divide viewers. Personally, I found it to be too long winded, garish and a little too kitsch. It is just another Tarantino cult classic, nothing special or new.