The Hateful Eight finds Quentin Tarantino operating in his smallest space (with his grandest vistas) all while a bunch of game actors entertains the hell out of you.
I saw The Hateful Eight in it’s 70mm Roadshow format, which also runs an extra 20 minutes compared to the release coming out on the 1st of January, and while the film has a three-hour plus runtime I didn’t feel it one bit. Following the meeting of eight strangers who are marooned at a trading post in the middle of a blizzard, the film follows what happens when one of those individuals is another one’s bounty and the lengths to which they will go to collect their prize from any challengers. That is all I knew about this film going in, and that’s all you really need to know too.
I mentioned this is Tarantino’s smallest space in my opening and that is because The Hateful Eight is basically a two set movie. The first two chapters take place on a stage coach on the way to Red Rock, while the final four all take in the aforementioned trading post, Minnie’s Haberdashery. Now, this doesn’t hamstring Tarantino in the slightest, as he wonderfully stages the action in the film. Letting characters fade in and out of the background when they are necessary and setting the stage for his set pieces beautifully. There isn’t a dull moment in the film and you will find yourself wrapped up in the characters and their personalities up until the plot boils over.
The film is called The Hateful Eight, but there are about ten key players on display here, and you can be damn sure there isn’t a good soul among them; well, except maybe OB. Samuel Jackson is the star of the film, and he plays an ex-Union Cavalry member in the Civil War, Major Warren, who had a bounty on his head for 30,000 dollars by the Confederates. A bounty hunter operating around Minnie’s Haberdashery, the film is on Warren’s turf and his knowledge of the place plays heavily in the film. Jackson is having the most fun, gets all the best lines, and is setting the tone of this film; which is the closest thing Tarantino has done to a straight comedy. Jackson is larger than life as Warren, but he is a blast to watch command a room. Jackson actually gets one of the best scenes of the year, period, right before the Roadshow’s intermission. You’ll know what I am talking about.
Contributing to the comedy of the film just as much are Walter Goggins and Tim Roth, the former getting to play dumb, while the later fast talks his way through every scene. I feel like we could have gotten a scene or two more with Roth, actually, but Goggins almost steals the show out from under Jackson multiple times throughout the picture. Kurt Russell is attached to his bounty, Jennifer Jason Leigh, most of the film and the two of them are at the center of everything. Russell is a storied bounty hunter who is too bold for his own good, while Leigh plays a ready to fly off her hinges madwoman who comes off as deadly as she is supposed to be. Michael Madsen quietly lurks in the shadows to proper effect, while Bruce Dern takes full advantage of his big moments in the picture. Demián Bichir might be the biggest surprise in the film for me, as his “Bob” is just a wonderful caricature that teeters on the line of being inappropriately racist if it wasn’t so clearly a satire of the “Mexicans” in Western’s of old. Channing Tatum gets the least amount of screen time here, but he makes the absolute most of it. His role needed someone we could quickly buy into, and Tatum sells it.
The biggest complaint I can hold against The Hateful Eight is that it was the first time in a Tarantino film that I felt like I could feel the beats coming. Quite a few of them actually. And while this doesn’t spoil the film because Tarantino is executing every beat so wonderfully, that element of surprise is something you expect from a Tarantino movie at this point. That said, I didn’t have any idea what the fuck was going to happen at the intermission point of this film, and it certainly didn’t go the way I would have expected it to if asked to make a prediction.
The violence shocks the way you expect, Tarantino earns every bit of his tension, and he invites you along to have fun as he blows it all to hell along the way. His cast is top-notch as always and his dialogue as sharp as you expect. The Hateful Eight Roadshow Engagement was one of my best theater going experiences of the year, and you shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity if you have it playing in your city.