UK Release Date: 8th January 2016
Runtime: 168 minutes
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demián Bichir, James Parks
Synopsis: A series of unsavoury characters meet at a chilly rest stop, with exceedingly violent consequences.
There are very few filmmakers who have amassed as much of a brand around their name as Quentin Tarantino. He is one of only a handful of directors who can sell a film based on their name alone. The result of that has been a quite remarkable increase in indulgence on his part, culminating in The Hateful Eight – a near-three hour monument to empty, violent cinema that has absolutely none of the director’s previous vision.
John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is a bounty hunter traveling to the town of Red Rock in order to claim the bounty on the head of Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). They run into fellow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) and future sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) head towards Minnie’s Haberdashery in order to take cover from a blizzard. It’s there that they meet the bizarre residents of the rest stop, who seem incredibly interested in the prisoner.
The problems with The Hateful Eight, of which there are many, certainly have nothing to do with its visual style. Tarantino has a unique eye for how to stage violence and, when the claret gets flowing, there’s real energy to the film. The lighting, too, creates a unique atmosphere, with the warmth of the haberdashery a stark contrast to the icy wasteland outside its broken front door.
| "You only need to hang mean bastards, but mean bastards you need to hang."
However, it’s there that the fun stops. The Hateful Eight, at just shy of three hours, is an endless act of self-love from Tarantino. All of the director’s most persistent tropes are present and correct, but without the acerbic wit that characterised his early work. All of the elements are there, but there’s a complete absence of substance. This is a film that is about nothing and, as a result, achieves nothing. By the time Tarantino himself turns up as a narrator in the second half, the film has completely disappeared up its own rear end.
This is Tarantino allowed completely off the leash and, as a result, his most pervasive deficiencies are thrown into sharp focus. Several of the characters seem present solely to indulge Tarantino’s love for a certain racial epithet and there’s nothing in the story to justify the nihilistic bloodletting of the final half hour. Even chapter headings and aspects of nonlinear narrative seem contrived to adhere to the Tarantino brand rather than to service the story.
There are bright spots in terms of performances, with Samuel L Jackson excelling as always when he gets the chance to deliver a grandstanding monologue. Walton Goggins, too, creates a memorable turn in amongst an ensemble of much bigger names. Unfortunately, none of the talented performers involved are given anything to chew on. It’s not just that the characters are unlikable; it’s that they’re entirely uninteresting. This also robs the film of any shock value, which leaves cinema’s leading provocateur without his raison d’être.
| "Justice delivered without dispassion is always in danger of not being justice."
Advertising would have audiences believe that The Hateful Eight is a non-stop orgy of the sort of violence that Tarantino fans have grown to love and expect. However, the film is instead a sluggish, pedestrian tale that completely fails to create a reason to care about the gore when it finally does come. There’s visual style to be found in The Hateful Eight, but that doesn’t plug the gap created by the film’s utter lack of meaning.
Pop or Poop?
Arriving in cinemas on a wave of extraordinary hype, The Hateful Eight is ultimately shocking only in how distinctly it fails to shock. Even as the film piles on a series of twists, Tarantino resolutely refuses to let his audience in. As long as he emerges as the smartest man in the room, he’s happy.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.