"The Hateful Eight" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
I mentioned in my review for Quentin Tarantino's 2007 film, "Death Proof", that he lets his characters talk way too much. Especially in a film that is supposed to be inspired by the Grindhouse genre, he doesn't know when to have his characters stop talking and for the action to start. After releasing two very successful, amazing films, it seems like Tarantino is back to that same problem, presenting "The Hateful Eight", a film that has the potential and the star power to be great, but is held back by a very talk-y script and a story that is perhaps an hour too long.
Minnie's Haberdashery is definitely hopping. When the wagon containing John "The Hangman" Ruth (Kurt Russell), his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), and Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) pull up to the Haberdashery, there are already four other men waiting inside for them. Those four men are Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Bob (Demián Bichir), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). They begrudgingly agree to share the little shack together for the next few nights as the blizzard is still roaring pretty strong outside.
However, as they start to spend more time together, revelations about the different people inside start to come out, including racist views, hatred towards one another, and a secret, devious plot at work under all their noses. Someone in the shack is trying to free Daisy from the Hangman, and it's up to everyone else present to find out who that is. If they don't find out who it is in time, none of them may be leaving that mountain after the blizzard passes.
Leonard Maltin once said on his podcast, "Maltin on Movies", that it is usually not the actors' fault for a movie being bad, and I 100% agree with him concerning this film. I think all the actors present in this movie give great performances, each of them able to embody these different characters that are vastly different from one another. This serves as a "Reservoir Dogs" set in the late 1800's, only consisting of a couple of sets and the viewer watching as these characters necessarily develop cabin fever due to their circumstances.
The standouts here are definitely Jackson, Russell, Goggins, and Leigh, who I think give some of the best performances in their career. Leigh, who I always pictured as the beautiful, friendly girl next door thanks to her performance in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", gives this performance as Daisy perfectly, who is ugly both inside and out. Even if you follow this actress's work over the years she has been active in Hollywood, it is still incredibly hard to recognize that that is even her on the screen. At the same time, I think she has excellent chemistry with Russell, who she is handcuffed to throughout the whole movie.
Russell also gives a performance that makes the viewer feel shocked that they're watching him on the screen. He is ruthless, mean, aggressive, and utterly hellbent on hanging this woman he is handcuffed to. We have Russell play cowboys, badass action heroes, crazed psychopaths who kill girls in his car, but I don't think we have ever seen him give a performance like this before.
You're probably thinking, while reading this so far, "Gee I don't see why this movie didn't get a higher rating." But that's what I'm about to touch on - the writing and the pacing for this movie. I have mentioned it before in my "Death Proof" film review that Tarantino sometimes has trouble to know when to make his characters shut up and get on with progressing the plot more. Now, if this was a film like "Pulp Fiction", I would completely understand the reason he would have his characters talk on and on and on, since there is no focal plot for the movie to progress through. But in a film like this, it seems like we get too much character interaction and not enough plot till the latter half of the movie.
You can definitely tell when the movie is switching halves, and that is when Warren is describing to Smithers how he had Smither's son perform sex acts on him for a blanket, since Warren forced him to strip naked and walk through the frigid temperatures. This is our first glimpse at what is still to come in this movie, as from there, it dives deep into the heavy violence and plot beats we can expect from Tarantino. However, it takes way too long to get there. This is a near 3 hour movie, with more than half of the runtime trying to set up what we're about to see. If Tarantino reduced the length of the film and gave a more tight and concise plot, I know this movie would have been so much better, and probably would have gotten a much higher rating.
It's not to say I don't appreciate what Tarantino was trying to do with his western film, I do. But, I definitely think he failed on a few aspects that should have made the film work perfectly. It is very unfortunate, as Tarantino himself has said that old Spaghetti westerns like "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" are some of his favorite films and has inspired him as a filmmaker. He does deliver a beautifully amazing second half. If only he could have kept the first part as concise and tight as the latter.
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