Let’s admit it, because of Pulp Fiction there will always be hype whenever Quentin Tarantino releases another movie. I was certainly excited when I first saw The Hateful Eight trailer. Tarantino flicks just make me feel all giddy with anticipation, and I’m not sure how to explain it. Perhaps it’s knowing you’re going to experience a film that will be equal parts ridiculous, ultra-violent, and hilarious, and somehow it’ll all work.
The Hateful Eight is no exception. Better yet, for the most part the film takes place in a single room, and what’s better then a cast of characters from a Tarantino-film stuck in one room together? You’ve got a couple of bounty hunters, a prisoner, a hangman, a Mexican, a pair of racist confederates, and a mystery. With such a novel premise, how could the film go wrong?
What is most remarkable about the film is its overall identity. 2015 was a year that saw Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, Spectre, and Furious 7, all movies that are unabashedly about action, explosions, and/or computer-generated set pieces designed to wow. The Hateful Eight is a refreshing break from all of that, instead choosing to tell a story about eight seemingly different people stuck in a room. Just this in itself made me grateful to have experienced it, because it proved that a good film doesn’t need a big budget or top-of-the-line computer animators to be worthwhile. A solid script and a good performance from the actors is definitely enough to entertain an audience for three hours. Whoa, I just looked up the running time, and I can’t believe it’s actually three hours long; it certainly didn’t feel like it when I watched it last night.
And indeed, it is because of the script and the cast that makes this film so good. All characters have distinct personalities and are likable/hateable in their own way. This is in spite of the fact that we get very little backstory for most of these characters. While Tarantino is well-known for his over-the-top violence and macabre sense of humour, his skill with dialogue and exposition is often overlooked. With The Hateful Eight, very little happens plotwise, but the audience is always engaged thanks in large part to the conversations the different characters have with one another. Although it was a short sequence, I especially liked the interaction between John Ruth and Marquis Warren over the reveal that the Lincoln letter was a fake. Not only does Tarantino do credit to the film-making quirks of the recent past, but he is also one of the few mainstream directors who understands the potential of words and character interaction.
Lastly, I’m not sure if this really is a “good thing”, but I realized after the movie was over that Tarantino somehow made the audience laugh while disturbing things were happening on screen, such as forced fellatio, a woman getting battered, and heads being blown off. It’s like Tarantino-magic is the complete opposite of Disney magic; while the latter warms our hearts and teaches us life lessons, the former numbs our sense of decency and enables us to laugh at everything and anything, be it a guy shoving a watch up his ass, a Nazi getting beaten with a bat, or a bride slaughtering a room full of Yakuza.
Not all of Tarantino’s quirks work in the film’s favour, however. It is obvious the director is a fan of old-school movies in all their 70s/80s cheesy glory, but this is a film about eight people locked in a room, not a tribute to film-making in a bygone era. That is why it was annoying seeing scenes drawn out longer than they needed to be, especially near the beginning,
Another minor thing is Tarantino’s unapologetic use of the word “nigger”. I don’t have anything against it being used in a film such as this, because it’s historically accurate, but after Django Unchained I can’t help but feel the novelty is wearing off. The more the word is used in his films, the less shocking it is, and the bad taste it leaves behind grows more noticeable each time.
The Loveable Eight
Nevertheless, the movie’s merits outweigh its misteps completely. Here are eight reasons why you should go watch The Hateful Eight in theatres right now (spoilers!):
- Channing Tatum’s head gets blown off
- Samuel L. Jackson
- The film executes suspense masterfully, a rare thing in blockbuster films these days
- Kurt Russell’s performance
- Beautiful cinematography of snow-covered mountains and inside the notorious haberdashery
- A simple yet engaging plot that will hook you ten minutes in
- A pair of charming southern accents
- Helps wash away your disappointment from The Force Awakens
I’d highly recommend this film as a good way to kill three hours, possibly a nice little reward after a long workday or something. It’s not going to win any academy awards, but it’s a fun movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s something everybody could use every now and then. Just remember you’re watching a Tarantino movie, embrace the usual desensitizing of violence and gore, and you’ll have a wonderful time!
This has been a gamobo review.