ReelBob: ‘The Hateful Eight’

By Bob Bloom

Audiences either will embrace or be repulsed by “The Hateful Eight,” Quentin Tarantino’s long, loud and messy Western.

This genre-bending, three hour-plus opus is a violent and profane mixture of Sergio Leone and Agatha Christie, all sprinkled with Tarantino outrageousness.

Set in post-Civil War Wyoming, “The Hateful Eight” offers moments of dizzying dialogue, brutality, sexism, racism and dark humor, all taking place, basically, on one set.

The film will make you cringe and laugh ­— and often at the same time. It definitely is a visceral experience.

You never know what’s going to happen next — or where the story is headed. You just hang on and go along for the raucous ride.

Say what you want about Tarantino — he’s derivative, undisciplined and self-indulgent and loves to hear his characters ramble on — but boy, are his movies fun to watch.

Emotionally, the experience is like watching homemade movies shot in the backyard, only with a much bigger budget.

The plot is simple: Bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is taking outlaw Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the town of Red Rock for hanging.

En route, Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a former Union officer and fellow bounty hunter, stops Ruth’s stagecoach, asking for a ride.

Ruth, known as “The Hangman” because he always takes his prisoners alive and delivers them to the hangman, is suspicious of Warren, who is toting two dead bodies for delivery in Red Rock, to collect his bounty.

Reluctantly, Ruth agrees to accommodate Warren. Later, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a former Confederate renegade, also needing a ride to Red Rock, stops the coach. Mannix claims to have been appointed the town’s new sheriff.

Ruth’s stagecoach is trying to outrace a blizzard and make it to Minnie’s Haberdashery, the coach stopover.

Arriving, the passengers find four strangers inside — Mexican Bob (Damian Bicher), who claims to be taking care of the place while Minnie is away; Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), an itinerant cowboy heading home; Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), who claims to be Red Rock’s hangman; and former Confederate Gen. Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern).

The fun is figuring out who these people really are and their actual agendas. Warren and Ruth are immediately suspicious that one or more of these people are at the haberdashery to free Domergue, who is constantly chained to Ruth.

I won’t divulge any more, except to say that — as in most Tarantino movies — the blood flows liberally and the plot twists like a Cedar Point roller coaster.

I saw the 20-minute longer roadshow version of “The Hateful Eight,” complete with overture and intermission. Unfortunately, it was not shown in 70mm.

Tarantino slowly constructs tension during the first half as he toys with the audience, dropping small hints here and there for the observant viewer.

The second half, which, as in Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” reverses time and shows us events from a different perspective, fails to sustain the momentum of the first.

Tarantino instills an air of anger and racism throughout the film. Warren, the only black man among the group, is treated with contempt and hatred. He is a loner in a hostile environment who also happens to be the most observant, instinctively knowing that something is amiss at Minnie’s.

The former Union officer’s honor is denigrated to the point that he goads Smithers into a gunfight by delightfully and graphically describing how he sexually abused the general’s cowardly son.

It is a compelling and profane verbal joust.

Ruth is constantly slapping or punching his loudmouth prisoner who, despite her predicament, takes delight in tormenting her captor.

The performances all-around are eccentric and showy, with Leigh and Goggins nearly stealing the film from Jackson and Russell.

Roth seems to be channeling Christoph Waltz, while Madsen offers his usual quiet and coiled menace.

“The Hateful Eight” is bleak and compelling. It again demonstrates that Tarantino is a self-confident — some may argue overconfident or arrogant — filmmaker with a singular vision. The writer-director may ape genre features, but, along the way, he makes them his own.

The movie may outrage you or make you uncomfortable, but “The Hateful Eight” is masterful storytelling that won’t allow you to ignore it or turn away.

Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.

 

THE HATEFUL EIGHT
3½ stars out of 4
(R), bloody and graphic violence, language, sexual content, nudity

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