As a realization of Tarantino's vision, The Hateful Eight is one of 2015's best movies - and a standout in the director's filmography.
Years after the Civil War, bounty hunter John "The Hangman" Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his coach driver O. B. Jackson (James Parks) brave a Wyoming snowstorm to deliver the murdering Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to justice at Red Rock. With a blizzard nipping at his heels, Ruth runs into an old acquaintance and fellow bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), as well as the son of a Confederate war hero, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), claiming to be Red Rock's new sheriff. Reluctant to allow either man into his stagecoach, on the possibility that Warren or Mannix could be working for Domergue, The Hangman eventually concedes.
Unable to outrun the snowstorm, the men agree to a pitstop at Minnie's Haberdashery, a local watering hole where The Hangman intends to wait-out the storm. However, Minnie is nowhere to be found; instead, the Haberdashery is inhabited by four polite strangers: Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Bob "The Mexican" (Demián Bichir), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). Suspicious of his acquaintances, both new and old alike, The Hangman digs in and prepares for a two-day stay surrounded by dangerous men with unknown intentions.
After the highly-publicized leak of Quentin Tarantino's Hateful Eight script draft back in 2014, the fan-favorite filmmaker nearly abandoned production of the movie; yet, positive response caused the director to press forward - with only minor changes from the previously leaked version. The result is one of Tarantino's most successful and downright entertaining films to date - one that, at the same time, should please die-hard fans and casual filmgoers alike. It's a snappy and clever script, executed with sharp cinematography (by Robert Richardson), as well as biting performances from a talented roster of veteran actors. While some viewers might balk at the prospect of sitting through Tarantino's 187 minute cut (which includes an intermission), even the longer "roadshow" version of the film still moves along at a lively pace - a testament to the success of Hateful Eight's single-setting comedy and drama.
Moviegoers who are hoping for a grandiose story, as in Kill Bill or Django Unchained, will find The Hateful Eight to be one of Tarantino's more restrained experiences (by comparison) - a film that lives or dies by whether viewers are keen to watch Hollywood A-listers engaged in witty, Civil War era, banter. Above all else, The Hateful Eight is a western detective story - forcing The Hangman (as well as the audience) to determine who is telling the truth and who might have ulterior motives. To that end, The Hateful Eight doesn't rely on spectacle to entertain; instead, Tarantino crafts a rich set of intriguing characters, each guided by personal motivations, places them all in a relatively banal location, and watches as sparks fly.
Considering the talent in front of the camera (as well as behind), it should come as little surprise to hear that every character and encounter is charged with memorable drama, along with quotable one-liners, that rank among Tarantino's best. No one is wasted in the film - and every single performer gets a moment or more in the spotlight. As with most Tarantino projects, The Hateful Eight is a series of closely connected vignettes - where characters step in and out of the background as needed. Some of the "Hateful Eight" get more screen time, development, and backstory than others but even minor players aid in setting the stage (so that others can shine).
In particular, Samuel L. Jackson once again succeeds in balancing his prior Tarantino filmography with his latest role, Major Marquis Warren, ensuring the Hateful Eight character isn't just a Civil War-era retread of Jules Winnfield or Ordell Robbie. In a cast packed-full of A-list performers, Jackson is a scene stealer - and the quintessential example of Tarantino succeeding in Hateful Eight's biggest challenge: making "hateful" miscreants likable.
Similarly, Kurt Russell's John Ruth is equally charming - even after elbowing a shackled woman in the face moments following his introduction. The characters of Hateful Eight aren't polite, politically correct, or self-restrained - and, more often than not, it is this candor (or commitment to deception) that makes them each fascinating to watch. Every single member of the cast could be praised for their part but fans of Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Demián Bichir, and Jennifer Jason Leigh should be especially pleased by Tarantino's choice of focus.
There's still loads of blood, gore, vulgarities, irreverence, and sexual content to turn-off sensitive moviegoers but Tarantino thankfully refrains from indulging to the point of distracting from his titular Hateful Eight - avoiding any unnecessary cameos, heavy-handed implementation of modern music, and other divisive choices that, for some, detracted from the auteur's previous works (especially in Django Unchained). Instead, Hateful Eight is a satisfying mix of the filmmaker's quirk within a straightforward character drama - populated with rich dialogue and notable confrontations.
In addition to standard digital screenings, which run 167 minutes, The Hateful Eight is also showing as an extended 187 minute presentation, in 70 mm projection, as part of a "roadshow" release. Casual viewers may be fine with the regular digital version but Tarantino fans and cinephiles should definitely make an effort to see the roadshow release where possible (find theater locations - HERE). The director's cut, especially in 70 mm, is presented the way Tarantino intended - and, as indicated previously, isn't an indulgent and bloated cut of the movie. Even at 187 minutes, The Hateful Eight never drags and, while the filmmaker hasn't detailed exactly what was removed for the 167 minute standard cut, there are sure to be standout moments and artistic flourishes (such as a musical overture, intermission, and added footage) that will be exclusive to roadshow viewers. Without a doubt, the extended cut is worth the extra money and effort it might require.
For longtime Tarantino fans, as well as general lovers of film, The Hateful Eight is a must-see movie from one of modern Hollywood's most compelling directors. The western drama-comedy isn't likely to top Tarantino lists as the filmmaker's best or most iconic movie; however, The Hateful Eight is a quality production full of unforgettable performances, cheeky banter, and a gripping storyline packed full of fun twists and shrewd drama - limited only by violence and profanity that won't be of taste for easily offended filmgoers. Still, as a realization of Tarantino's vision, The Hateful Eight is one of 2015's best movies - and a standout in the director's filmography.
The Hateful Eight runs 167 minutes (wide digital release) or 187 min (limited 70 mm and roadshow release) and is Rated R for strong bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity. Now playing in select theaters.
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