The name Quentin Tarantino tends to conjure up differing opinions: some say he’s a brilliant auteur who can do no wrong, and others peg him as a recycler of obscure cinema heaped with cartoonish gore and violence. Since he first burst onto the scene nearly 25 years ago with 1992’s Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino seems to have had controversy follow him at every turn. Heckled at Cannes, attacked for glorifying violence, smacking a paparazzi at Sundance – the list literally goes on and on.
The road to getting The Hateful 8 up and running hasn't been smooth either: after shelving the project when the script was spread online, Tarantino thankfully decided to drop a legal suit over the matter, and move into production instead. It would be tempting to think that Tarantino's knack for stirring up trouble makes his films that much more a forbidden indulgence. If that's the case, he's in luck: as The Hateful 8 prepares for its Christmas Day release, controversy has found him once again.
Last week, Tarantino ran afoul of several police organisations when he attended a large anti-police brutality march in New York City as part of "Rise Up October." Offering his support of the movement (as one of the few celebrities spotted taking part in the event), the director offered the following statement to the press:
"I'm a human being with a conscience and if you believe there's murder going on then you need to rise up and stand up against it. I'm here to say I'm on the side of the murdered."
Police organisations soon made their opposition to his comments known, taking exception to Tarantino’s use of the word “murder” to describe the events surrounding those killed by police. Their response was quick and to the point, as police associations in New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, among others called for a boycott of the upcoming The Hateful 8, as well as Quentin Tarantino’s entire body of work to date.
The movement gained support when it was endorsed by the National Assocation of Police Organization more recently. Until today, Tarantino had neither responded to police comments regarding his participation in the protest nor his initial statement. But when it came time for him to make his rebuttal to the L.A. Times, Tarantino unsurprisingly had a lot to say as to whether or not his initial comments qualified as “anti-cop rhetoric” (and if this was an effective use of the police's time):
“All cops are not murderers, I never said that. I never even implied that. What they’re doing is pretty obvious. Instead of dealing with the incidents of police brutality that those people were bringing up, instead of examining the problem of police brutality in this country, better they single me out. And their message is very clear. It’s to shut me down. It’s to discredit me. It is to intimidate me. It is to shut my mouth, and even more important than that, it is to send a message out to any other prominent person that might feel the need to join that side of the argument.”
"I'm not being intimidated. Frankly, it feels lousy to have a bunch of police mouthpieces call me a cop hater. I'm not a cop hater. That is a misrepresentation. That is slanderous. That is not how I feel. But you know, that's their choice to do that to me. What can I do? I'm not taking back what I said. What I said was the truth. I'm used to people misrepresenting me; I'm used to being misunderstood. What I'd like to think [is] their attack against me is so vicious that they're revealing themselves. They're hiding in plain sight."
The Hateful 8 marks Tarantino’s return to the Old West after Django Unchained scored both box office and Oscar gold. This time around, eight strangers - John Ruth (Kurt Russell), Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson), Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), Bob (Demian Birch), Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern) - are holed up in a stopover on a secluded mountain pass during a blizzard.
With the passage of time comes the sort of troubling revelations that only Quentin Tarantino can dream up. Reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs in its minimalist use of locations, Tarantino’s decision to shoot The Hateful 8 in 70mm can only serve to enhance the film’s claustrophobic tone.
Regardless of anyone’s opinion on Tarantino’s statement and actions, the fact remains that he’s an American citizen, with the Constitutional right to both free speech and free assembly. The police are also granted the same rights, though their decision to promote a boycott may not carry the same weight it used to, especially given the regular onslaught of petitions, protests and boycotts for less than admirable causes (it's the same course chosen by those taking issue with the diverse cast of Star Wars Episode VII).
Don’t expect either The Hateful 8’s box-office take, nor Quentin Tarantino’s catalogue of work to be troubled by the police boycott for the simple fact that Tarantino’s fanbase is huge, global and highly dedicated.
The Hateful 8 will be presented in 70mm in select theatres December 25, 2015 with a nationwide digital release following on January 8, 2016.