Remember how I said that it was intimidating to admit that The Big Short didn’t do much for me as a viewer? Well, it’s even more intimidating for me to admit that I felt much the same way about The Hateful Eight as well.
Nearly everyone I know loves The Hateful Eight and, going into it, I really wanted to love it as well. After all, this is — as the opening credits remind us — Quentin Tarantino’s 8th film! Tarantino is one of my favorite directors. I thought his last film, Django Unchained, was a masterpiece and one of the most important films ever made about slavery. Like many of you, I’ve followed all the details of the making of The Hateful Eight, from the initial script leak to the controversy over Tarantino’s comments on the police. I was excited because the cast looked great and was full of veteran actors — like Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bruce Dern — who all seemed likely to benefit from the Tarantino touch. (Say what you will about Quentin Tarantino, it cannot be denied that he’s given good roles to talented actors who are rarely given the opportunities that they deserve.) When I heard that Ennio Morricone was going to be providing the score, I got even more excited. Morricone and Tarantino; it seemed like the perfect combination for greatness.
Well, Morricone’s score is spectacular. There’s talk that Morricone might finally win an Oscar for his work on The Hateful Eight and I certainly don’t have a problem with that. (Hopefully, Morricone will have learned a lesson from the Golden Globes and, if he is nominated, he will either come to the ceremony himself or arrange for someone other than Tarantino to accept for him.) And Jennifer Jason Leigh takes full advantage of her role, giving a truly ferocious performance.
But otherwise, The Hateful Eight just didn’t do much for me. It’s not that I disliked the film. There was a lot that worked but, for whatever reason, The Hateful Eight never enthralled me the way that past Tarantino films have. The Hateful Eight left me saying, “Is that it?”
A lot of my reaction to The Hateful Eight has to do with the film’s length. Taking place, for the most part, in only one location and structured more like a play than a film, The Hateful Eight would be a great 90 minute murder mystery. Instead, it lasts nearly 3 hours and, at times, the film drags interminably. As usual, Tarantino plays with time and, at one point, stops the action so that we can see what happened earlier in the day. Unfortunately, as opposed to other Tarantino films, we don’t really learn anything new from this flashback and you get the feeling that it was included most because flaskbacks are a Tarantino trademark and because he wanted to find a way to work a somewhat pointless Zoe Bell cameo into the film.
As for Tarantino’s widely acclaimed script, I have to admit that I got kind of bored with this talky film. Yes, the actors were all good and it’s always fun to listen to Samuel L. Jackson be a badass but the dialogue itself was largely repetitive and occasionally, the film itself threatened to turn into Tarantino-on-autopilot.
(Interestingly enough, Tarantino’s script features several creative euphemisms for oral sex and the characters come up with a handful of different ways to point out that Jackson is black but, when it comes to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character, nobody can come up with anything more imaginative than repeatedly calling her a bitch. While, unlike some critics, I don’t think The Hateful Eight is a misogynistic movie, I do have to admit that I was rolling my eyes around the fifth time that Leigh’s character was called a bitch and kept rolling them for the entire movie. For a writer well-known for his ability to come up with colorful and memorable insults, Tarantino’s refusal to come up with anything more imaginative than “bitch” just felt lazy.)
What can I say? The Hateful Eight just didn’t do much for me. However, I do think that the film looked great and I certainly hope that Morricone and Leigh are at least nominated for their excellent work. I look forward to Tarantino’s next film but I doubt I’ll be revisiting The Hateful Eight any time soon.
(By the way, with this review, I am now officially caught up on reviewing the films of 2015!)
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It’s definitely on the bottom half of his eight films. I agree with you that it plays out more like a stage production and from what I’ve read today it looks like Tarantino may allow The Hateful Eight to become a stage production.
Despite it’s length I will admit that the performances by the ensemble cast was what kept me from nodding off. I will have to point out some extra attention on Walton Goggin’s performance as the racist sheriff.
I think Tarantino might have found himself a new face to add to his small, but talented regular cast in Goggins. He had a smaller part in Django Unchained but did great work with the time and dialogue he was given.
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Walton Goggins fitted in with the rest of the cast as if he’d been working with them and Tarantino for years. After “Django Unchained” I was hoping Tarantino would provide him with a meatier role in another of his movies. I wasn’t disappointed.
Tarantino has talked about when he stops making films after the tenth he would move over to TV. I can see him making Goggins as his go-to-guy if showruns a series.
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