Q. Tarantino’s eighth movie is a hateful, hateful motion picture. Critics went bonkers over its gratuitous violence and the lavish use of pejoratives, as expected. But these are some of the same critics who toss the happenstance-ridden Don’t Breathe in the same league with the likes of American History X. Come on.
Tarantino gives us in the shape of The Hateful Eight a new bounty-hunting movie emblem. Albeit there are more than just eight characters involved, only eight of them are central and well, hateful. Having said that though, the denomination could probably equally be chalked up to the fact that this is Tarantino’s eighth movie. The memorable array of characters in the movie is also -as he himself put it- made up of “the Tarantino superstars”, with whom (some more than others) he collaborated on a couple other flicks.
The inauspicious image of a crucified Christ thick with snow in the dead of winter and the middle of nowhere, and the spine-tingling L’Ultima Diligenza di Red Rock by the fabled Ennio Morricone mark the outset of the movie and as the damned six-horse carriage draws nearer and nearer, we come, before long, face to face with the protagonists. John Ruth (Kurt Russel)– also known as “The Hangman” on account of his intentness on getting the nefarious ones to hang– is this time transporting to Red Rock the villainous Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and on his way he picks up Samuel Jackson as Major Marquis Warren, who’s looking to get to Red Rock a couple of dead bodies himself (his bounties never hang, ’cause he never brings them in alive), and Chris Mannix played by Walton Goggins (“When niggers are scared, that’s when white folks are safe”), the sheriff-to-be of Red Rock. On the road we listen in on their chit-chat and get thereby a sense of who these characters are. The take-no-prisoners, devilishly cold snowstorm that has all the while only picked up, compels them to put off their travel and seek refuge in Minnie’s Haberdashery. This is where it all happens- the bulk of the film, that is.
Another couple of stranded travelers, we see, are already here as John Ruth, Major Marquis and Chris Mannix walk in.What’s more, most of the action taking place in only one room brings of course to mind Reservoir Dogs, but, as a place where a bunch of relative strangers are stuck with one another for an indefinite length of time, it also resembles Sartre’s idea of hell in No Exit- “Hell is other people”.
The non-linear, quasi-minimalist structure,the multiple protagonists, the situational turns, the heavy use of disparaging language, the simple but so effective humor and the usual top-notch soundtrack (one of the best I’ve come across , hands down) make out of The Hateful Eight the quintessential Tarantino movie and it undoubtedly stands testament to his top-of-the-totem-pole position.
Speaking of the score, incidentally, the guy behind this tour de force is Ennio Morricone and it’s in good part taken from the all- but- unused score he’d written forThe Thing(1982)- Eternity, Betiality, Despair, to be more precise.
Structure-wise, the movie breaks down into chapters and we can hear Tarantino’s own voice narrating the events now and then – It spans about three hours so he went for a shortcut. It seems quite impromptu and somewhat disrupts the air of the movie, but I wouldn’t count it as a weak point, nevertheless. Chapter five actually precedes chronologically the fourth one and it makes for an extensive flashback, revealing the events that had happened before the coming of John Ruth and co. at Minnie’s Haberdashery and the true identity of the rest of the people in there. The Marquis is suspicious and feels something’s off right off the bat. Straight after crossing the threshold of the place he starts piecing together the dreadful story and , sharp as a tack, finally puts two and two together. We lay eyes of course on the very same things he does, only to us they’re void of significance. Granted, as soon as he begins to lay out what he reckons had happened to Minnie and the rest, it starts sounding a trifle like some Sherlock Holmes story.
As to violence- it is there. Without question. And it may come over as a bit overly in your face. But having said that, when you embark on a Tarantino flick, you doubtless know what you’re in for and that SOME harrowing stuff is just a stone’s throw away. You’re in the cards to witness some bloodshed. This is part and parcel of what Tarantino brings to the table and I have to take exception to the backlash against the violence facet I hear round every corner. You either like or don’t like an artist. If you don’t, you can either keep on checking out their stuff so as to have something to badmouth and talk about (which makes you something of a masochist) or you reorient yourself- the only sensible thing to do, from where I stand. In this very case it is no different. You know the drill- Tarantino WILL make as much use as he can of the word nigga and what have you and sadistically murder his characters. It’s what he does. Maybe because it just so happens that he derives pleasure from it or maybe only because “mean bastards you HAVE to hang” .
Be that as it may, this is the stamp that his flicks bear and it’s either his way or the highway. I recommend you go his because this is a unique, disturbingly pleasurable movie and an exhibition of adroit storytelling.