Writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film, western mystery “The Hateful Eight,” is an homage to classic cinema … or a hack job.
The auteur certainly has his detractors, most of whom simply resent his scripted matter-of-fact racial interactions that deviate from contemporary narratives in which history is rewritten to excise (to what end?) inhuman subjugation and offensive language. To wit, last year’s masterpiece (and possibly Leonardo DiCaprio’s best performance), the spaghetti western “Django Unchained,” was widely panned because Tarantino had the audacity to tell an empowering slave tale.
In that same way, “The Hateful Eight” — which not only features the signature Samuel L. Jackson patois that is anathemic to some, but also a good amount of Jennifer Jason Leigh getting smacked-around — is destined for the same snubbing.
Critics, pfft! What do they know?! This one’s a fan-pleaser.
Ever the purist, Tarantino shot H8 in rare 70mm Ultra Panavision, which seems squandered for all but the establishing sequences. Most of the action takes place at a stagecoach stop just outside southwestern Wyoming where bounty hunters Major Warren (Jackson) and John Ruth (Kurt Russell) take cover with their prisoners, many of whom are dead, one (Leigh as the dirty murderer Daisy Domergue) alive, after unsuccessfully outrunning a blizzard.
Inside, Tarantino’s unique style of intricately-woven storytelling shines as his Agatha Christiesque-mystery unfolds. What became of Minnie in whose haberdashery they’ve gathered for the next two-plus hours? Is the gruff cowboy (Michael Madsen) really just on his way to visit his mother for Christmas? Tim Roth is an unlikely hangman, wouldn’t you agree? Why is Confederate General Smithers (Bruce Dern) so tightlipped? Did Warren really correspond with President Lincoln?
Well into the third act, we’re kept guessing whether there is an effort afoot to right some past social wrongs or if the one-by-one killings which begin with a secreted hand poisoning the community coffee pot are a well-choreographed effort on the part of Domergue’s gang to rescue her. Either way, we’re on high alert which makes for an engaging film.
Like Tarantino’s 2009 war film “Inglourious Basterds” and the aforementioned “Django,” “The Hateful Eight” will amaze any moviegoer who allows themselves, against the counsel of their better angels, to enjoy his brand of filmmaking.