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The Hateful Eight - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Hateful Eight
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B
Music: B+

I don't want to sound like a contrarian per se regarding The Hateful Eight, because I did enjoy it. But that alone doesn't make it great, and it's objectively far from Quentin Tarantino's greatest film. It's a testament to his talent that it's still worth seeing for many, even though it could be argued that of his eight films -- the marketing materials, and even the opening titles themselves, really want to keep us reminded that this is his eighth film -- this one is his weakest. That doesn't make it bad. It just means most, if not all, of his others are better.

His previous film, Django Unchained (2012), was certainly better. Good enough for me to see in the theatre twice. I don't regret seeing The Hateful Eight, but I'm in no hurry to see it again. It's a massive time investment for how little actually happens in it. We're talking three hours and seven minutes, including both an intermission and an "Overture" that starts the film. That said, it may come as a relief to know that the 70mm "Roadshow" release (Seattle being one of the 44 markets getting it; it's playing digitally in other theatres, however), due to the actual film being projected, includes no trailers. You come in, sit down, and the movie begins. That's kind of refreshing, although you still have to wait through several minutes of the "Overture" music while looking at nothing but a still drawing of a distant horse-drawn stagecoach with a blood-red mountain range behind it. It's an indelible image, at least.

Before I get any further into what the movie's actually about, in fact, I should make a note of this particular 70mm presentation. Especially during bright snow scenes, there is a sort of pulsing flickering visible, which presumably in the digital version does not exist. A search online reveals that this is not exclusive to Pacific Place here in Seattle, and reactions to it seem to be mixed: some find it enhances the experience; others, including me, find it distracting. Tarantino has a slavish devotion to movies being presented in the way he remembers them being shown in his youth, which includes imperfections such as these, or visual static on the film. For me, this often took me out of the film. Then the story would suck me back in and I would forget about it -- and then a scene would change, and it was overtly noticeable again. Truthfully, I may have enjoyed this film more in a digital presentation.

I may also have been able to overlook such things more easily if the movie were edited more concisely. In the first half, before the intermission, shots go on for a clearly deliberate, yet unnecessarily extensive period of time. Not a lot happens. Bounty hunter John "The Hangman" Ruth (a great Kurt Russell) and his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh, inspired casting), are in a stagecoach rushing through snowy woods in an attempt to outrun an approaching blizzard to shelter. They come across Union Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson, the best performer in this movie), curiously without a horse and in need of a ride to transport his own corpses meant to collect bounty cash. Later they come across another man, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins, using an almost pointedly hillbilly accent), also with no horse, and claiming to be the sheriff of the town they're all headed for.

Probably the first hour of the movie consists of only this. As I said, the pacing is slow. Some might say glacial, which is perhaps fitting in this snowy environment. To Tarantino's credit, it's still never dull. Every shot is interesting to look at, and every actor commands attention with their performance. That isn't really the issue with The Hateful Eight, which is entertaining in spite of how long it is. It's that Tarantino, for the first time, is offering us the second movie in a row of the same genre -- Western -- and in so doing really offers us nothing new. He offered us the same type of movie three years ago, only that one was better.

We get all we come to expect from a Tarantino film: eventually, things get pretty gory. If you want to see a movie with someone's face getting splattered to smithereens with a single gunshot, look no further. The editing jumps the timeline in the second half, although for a Tarantino film, even that is pretty simply done here; there are none of the editing gymnastics of a movie like Pulp Fiction. But we do get to go back and see some of what we already saw, from different characters' perspectives, and it's intriguing. This also brings us Channing Tatum as one of the new characters, and his mere presence is more of a distraction than was probably intended.

Who are the rest of the "Eight," you may wonder? Well, the four we've already been introduced to -- plus their driver, O.B. (James Parks), I suppose makes five -- eventually find themselves at a stagecoach lodge, already populated with shady characters, played by Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demián Bichir and Bruce Dern. Does that make eight? No, wait. That's nine! And it doesn't even include Channing Tatum. Why the fuck isn't this called The Hateful Ten? I'm so confused! I mean, seriously, they're all pretty hateful. To be fair, they're also all a lot of fun to watch.

That's the clarification to take away from this, really: The Hateful Eight is way more fun than it has much right to be. It's too long, and not nearly as original as virtually every other film Tarantino has made. And yet, it still works, at least if you think of its genre as not so much "Western" as "Quentin Tarantino." For die hard Tarantino fans, it's still required viewings. For casual fans, they'll be fine if they take it or leave it. Me, I'm glad I saw it.

Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh have a terse conversation with Michael Madsen, just three of THE HATEFUL EIGHT.

Overall: B
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