As uncontrolled as Tarantino’s recent films might have been, they were delightfully entertaining, oozing primal energy and bloodthirsty charm. The Hateful Eight has none of those things, featuring endlessly pontificating dialogue which shrieks of a man who enjoys the sound of his own voice a bit too much.
The Hateful Eight is a western. It begins with an overture, includes 6 title cards declaring distinct “chapters” and features a much needed 12 minute intermission, at least for the 70mm release. It’s a format Tarantino is evidently keen to promote. At least superficially, his intentions seem pure, keen to cast an eye back to classic cinema and indeed his own roots – with pretty much all of the film set in a single location, à la Reservoir Dogs.
Taking place shortly after the American Civil War, Samuel L. Jackson plays a bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren, who hitches a ride on a stage coach occupied by another man in the same profession (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh). They encounter a man lost in the snow (Walton Goggins, probably the film’s high point), claiming to be the new sheriff and they reluctantly take him onboard. The renegades take shelter from the Wyoming blizzard in a cabin, occupied by another crew of dubious characters, including Tim Roth’s local ‘hangman’ and Bruce Dern as a former Confederate General and verbal sparring commences, inevitably leading to something a bit more violent. Jackson is in his ‘badass’ comfort zone, somehow making an incredibly successful career out of giving a single performance of self parody. It’s not new, it’s not interesting and takes you out of all the drama that the lengthy dialogue and inevitable bloodshed is meant to induce. The Hateful Eight is stuffed with fluff. At over 3 hours long, it becomes difficult to pick out the occasional zinger of a line from the pages of flat, boring dialogue. It is boring, there is no getting around it. Character motivations are never properly defined (an accusation you can never make for a Tarantino film) and until the intermission, there’s a distinct absence of plot. Jackson delivers one monologue leading into the intermission which reminds you what fun Tarantino can be, a rare glistening pearl in a sea of sludge.
The violence feels like it’s going through the motions, ticking Tarantino’s trademarked boxes, rather than eliciting the feelings of shock, humour and catharsis which he usually executes so splendidly. It’s a disappointingly rambling and self-indulgent affair, with Tarantino abandoning his usual sense of free flowing fantasy for something equally unrestrained, but without the fun which usually makes him so unmissable.
Review by David Rank
The Hateful Eight is out now in the UK. Rating 18 (UK). Running time 187 mins.