Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Hateful Eight (Theatrical review)

The Hateful Eight (2015)
Comedy, Crime, Drama, 179/187 minutes
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir and James Parks

It's been three years since Quentin Tarantino released Django Unchained, so I have been starved of the dark humor and intelligent writing that appears in so many of my favorite movies.

Before I review The Hateful Eight, I want to explain what I think of Tarantino. His previous seven main features have delivered some of the most entertaining cinema of the past 20 years. His dialogue is unmatched and the screenplays have the ability to tell compelling, entertaining stories, while making me laugh at the dark humor. He also has the ability to choose the perfect music to fit the scenes and he uses actors in ways that they have never been used before. He boosted the careers of people like John Travolta and Pam Grier, and introduced us to Christoph Waltz. Tarantino is a genre all his own and his body of work probably makes him my favorite director.

However, The Hateful Eight is a huge disappointment.

Tarantino has explained how he used to anticipate the release of films from his favorite directors, such as Brian De Palma. He always wanted to see the film for himself before viewing it with friends. It was a much-loved ritual. That's how I feel about Tarantino's own movies. They are gifts to be savored and I deliberately waited a few weeks for the fuss to die down so that I could experience the movie without a large audience ruining the experience for me. Today's morning showing gave me that opportunity and I managed to find a quiet spot from which to devour this latest Tarantino treat.

As with his previous films, The Hateful Eight is broken down into chapters. The opening chapter introduces bounty hunters Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) and John Ruth (Russell). Ruth has captured Daisy Domergue (Leigh) and allows Warren to hitch a ride to Red Rock where he will turn in the three dead criminals he is transporting. This opening exchange is quite promising, although it lacks some of the punch of Tarantino's dialogue from other movies.

A blizzard forces the party to seek refuge and it's here that the other characters are introduced. The majority of the film's three-hour running time takes place in a single building.

As with many celebrated directors, Tarantino has his favorites when it comes to actors. Michael Madsen and Tim Roth are a welcome presence, while Jackson and Russell are the most important characters for much of the story.

I found myself grinning as the White Stripes' Apple Blossom played when we met Daisy; it fit the scene perfectly as I have come to expect. Ennio Morricone won a Golden Globe for his original score, so what was lacking?

I find it strange that Tarantino would make consecutive Westerns. Is he finally running out of original ideas? The trademark foul language and excessive violence is present as it is in his other films, but this time it feels forced and, at times, even unnecessary. The tongue-in-cheek humor is sparse at best. I found myself thinking that Tim Roth's character was written for Christoph Waltz, although Roth did a decent job and was one of the better characters.

The whole thing was just off. I cared about The Bride, Butch and Jackie Brown, but I didn't care about any of these characters. I'm at a loss to explain Jennifer Jason Leigh's various nominations, as her character contributed very little to this struggling story. It's as if Tarantino tried to make a Tarantino movie, but forgot how.

I thought Django Unchained was brilliant in places, but bloated in others. The Hateful Eight feels bloated throughout (even the title sequence) and I have to wonder how much the loss of editor Sally Menke has affected Tarantino's last two films.

My Blu-ray cabinets contain all of Tarantino's movies, but I am not certain I'll even add this one to my collection. I would rather watch Death Proof than revisit The Hateful Eight. I'm sorry Quentin; I love your previous work, but I can't lie. Let's hope for Kill Bill 3 and a return to form in another three years or so.

Overall score 6/10

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