Review: The Hateful Eight

Samuel L. Jackson in THE HATEFUL EIGHT Photo: Andrew Cooper, SMPSP © 2015 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved.

Quentin Tarantino has a unique way of telling stories. From Reservoir Dogs to Django Unchained, Tarantino’s films have a style and tone that’s unique to him.

For better or worse, The Hateful Eight is no different.

The Hateful Eight tells the story of bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) outrunning a blizzard on his way to Red Rock Wyoming with his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) , a woman who is scheduled to be hung for murder. Along the way they pick up a famous bounty hunter named Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) and stumble upon Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), and southern renegade who insist he’s the new sheriff of Red Rock. The blizzard forces the group to take shelter at Minnie’s Haberdashery until the storm passes.

Inside Minnie’s the group is met by four  interesting characters –  the caretaker of Minnie’s named Bob (Demian Bichir), an Englishman named Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), a traveler named Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Smithers (Bruce Dern), a former Confederate  general.

It’s not long before John Ruth’s paranoia gets the best of him. He believes one of the strangers isn’t who they say they are. Ruth thinks one of the men plans to free Daisy before she can hang. With nowhere to go, the eight wait out the blizzard inside Minnie’s until the Daisy’s cohort reveals himself.

The Hateful Eight is the most Tarantino film Tarantino’s ever made. It’s got his usual blood splattering violence, quick witted dialogue, and amusing characters.

In a film packed with excellent performances, none are better than Walton Goggins and Samuel L Jackson. Jackson is a legend and delivers lines as only Samuel L Jackson can. Anyone who watched Justified knows just how talented Goggins is. It’s good to see him getting the opportunity to flex his muscles on the big screen. Their characters don’t get a long, a black union soldier and a southern rebel , so it makes for a combustible relationship from the second they meet. Jackson and Goggins carry a lot of the movie by playing off each other like a seasoned improv group.

The movie also has Tarantino’s excessive use of the word “nigger“. Since Jackie Brown, Tarantino’s caught the ire of many for his use of the word in his films. The controversy came up again in 2012 after Django Unchained was released – it was reportedly used 109 times. Tarantino gave explanations about putting people in the time period and not lying about how people spoke in 1858. The issue in The Hateful Eight isn’t just the frequency, but how the word is used. He uses it with such reckless abandon, it’s hard to concentrate on what the characters is saying. For one, it’s completely unnecessary for the story. The redundant use of nigger adds nothing to the narrative.  Audiences are smart enough to know people were racist in a post Civil War United States. Second, most times nigger is used for comedic purposes or as a punch line for a joke. It’s as a cheap pop to get the audience’s attention. It has zero effect on the dialogue other than Tarantino constantly waving it in the audience’s like, “Look what I can do”.

Tarantino using nigger reminds me of the scene in Super Troopers when Mac and Foster play the Cat Game and try to say “meow” as many times as possible while giving a man a speeding ticket.  Mac (Tarantino) giggles the entire time while the driver (the audience) is confused about what he’s hearing.

We get it, Tarantino likes using the word nigger in his movies. I hope he gets over it, and soon.

As if the language wasn’t enough controversy, the film shows brutal violence against women. Much like his use of the word nigger, Daisy being repeatedly bashed in the face is used as a punch line. Those scenes are even more ridiculous because they aren’t really necessary.

It also wouldn’t be a Tarantino film without some brilliant filmmaking. The story is staged very well. Most of the story takes place inside Minnie’s. The close proximity keeps the tempers hot without the script having to do much to fan the flames. Despite the film’s long run time, the story is broken up into six chapters making its length easier to digest. Each chapter plays like a short film instead of one 168 min block of film. It allows for The Hateful Eight’s mystery to dangle long enough and keep the audience engaged.

There’s also a great scene where Major Warren talks about why carries his letter from Abraham Lincoln.

The Hateful Eight should be a great film, but it’s so much like his other films that it plays like one big parody. Its “edgy”, but not interestingly edgy. If Saturday Night Live was doing a sketch about a Tarantino western, it would look a lot like The Hateful Eight. There was a time when Tarantino’s love for old cinema and willingness to push boundaries made him fascinating. At some point, his trademark uniqueness morphed into repetitive film making. The Hateful Eight is the same tired, predictable shtick audiences have seen before. He’s gone to the well too many times, and is finally starting to come up empty.

Grade: C