The Hateful Eight
Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern
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The Hateful Eight is Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film and second western after the gleefully bombastic, Django Unchained. Despite occupying the same genre, The Hateful Eight couldn’t be more tonally or visually different than the 2012 hit. As the title suggests, Hateful doesn’t feature a cast of loveable rogues and it’s as dark and unrelenting as anything Tarantino has directed before.
The story has bounty hunter, John Ruth (Kurt Russell) transporting criminal, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the town of Red Rock to hang. Along the way John picks up Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and soon-to-be Sheriff, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). This unlikely band are soon forced off the road by a raging blizzard and they take cover in Minnie’s Haberdashery, a small business run from a wood cabin. Inside they meet Bob (Demian Bichir), Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern).
The Hateful Eight then spends most of its 167 minute runtime in said cabin, as characters reveal their pasts and true intentions through banter, monologues and telling reactions. It’s staged almost like a play, and the sense of mounting tension is genuinely gripping. The pace is deliberate, some might say slow, but it’s a testament to the director’s faith in his story and it’s faith well-placed. The third act of the movie features some of the most shocking, graphic violence on screen in recent memory. Set against the backdrop of the howling blizzard outside and Ennio Morricone’s haunting score, the tone is bleak indeed. Sure there are some laughs, big ones in fact, but it’s pitch black gallows humour that underlines rather than lightens the savagery on display.
Performance wise Kurt Russell is his most delightfully John Wayne-ish since John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China and Samuel L. Jackson delivers yet another stunning turn. However the two big surprise performances come from Walton Goggins and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who both do the best work of their already impressive careers.
The Hateful Eight isn’t a pleasant film, but it’s a brutally engaging one, the confident character work juxtaposes with the shocking bloodshed (and seriously, you haven’t seen a cabin this blood-soaked outside of an Evil Dead film) and racial subtext to create something quite unique and memorable. It certainly won’t be a film for everyone, but for those who can handle the brutality and nihilism, there’s a lot to love about The Hateful Eight.