The Hateful Eight

After completing Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino remarked that now that he figured out how to do a western, he should make another one. The result is The Hateful Eight. As can be expected of a Tarantino movie, it has his unique flavor of storytelling, however, it is undeniably a western. Even with the over the top shock moments to slap the audience in the face with something unexpected, The Hateful Eight still channels the classic feel of those old westerns from the 60’s. From the attention to the landscape to the score featuring the western maestro himself, Ennio Morricone, this film grounds itself in films that came before it, and blazes a path of its own.

First off, this film is not for everyone. It’s especially not suited for kids. Seriously, we’re not just talking the usual over-the-top, heads exploding violence and blood gushing gore, but full on nudity and strong sexual content. There’s F-bombs and the N-word and lots of scenes especially crafted to shock the audience. The primary antagonist of the film is Jennifer Jason Leigh. She starts the movie out with a black eye and sees no shortage of abuse as she is slowly destroyed through the events of the movie. If you’re squeamish about violence toward women, this movie will surely make you sick or infuriate you. Samuel L. Jackson’s black bounty hunter also receives a lot of verbal abuse in a reflection of the time period and ex-Confederates. The movie goes so far beyond not pulling punches, that it presents an interesting angle for a story. This isn’t a western with a shining white hat cowboy who saves the day. This is a movie filled with cutthroats, racists, murders and delinquents. There’s a reason it’s called The Hateful Eight. Each character in the movie can be equally hated, and certainly show their hate towards others in the film.

Yet the odd thing is how these despicable characters can manage to make themselves entertaining. While it’s certainly not for everyone, if you like Tarantino movies, this one will strike a chord with you with its dark humor and colorful characters. Part of the charm is its grounded western storytelling. Most of the movie is a gradual build up to the climax. In that journey, we get a close look at each of the characters. Dialog is the driving force of the film as we hear each character speak and reveal their personalities. This slow burn ingratiates all of the hateful eight with the viewers so that you can see them for all their quirks and flaws. Then, when the climax hits, the action rewards the viewers after their long wait with bursts of violence, over-the-top surprises, twists and turns, and an ending that will have you smiling at just how sick and twisted of a movie this is. It’s a dark western with gallows humor and a touch of mystery that’s equal parts tribute and unique.

There are three things that can be easily overlooked with this movie after viewing it, in large part to just how crazy this story gets. The first aspect is the cinematic shots of the landscape. Now The Hateful Eight doesn’t reach any new highs in capturing wonderful scenery, but the fact that it does take the time to show off the environment is a nice nod to its forebearers. Some of the best westerns were the ones that took the time to show off the world they inhabit. From the wonders of Monument Valley to the graceful mountain landscapes of the Rockies, the beauty of the west is always a key ingredient in a western film. In this case, Tarantino highlights the cold, bitter terrain of the Rockies. It’s an unforgiving landscape with skies as gray as its characters. In fact the environment reflects the deadly nature of the cast as a dangerous blizzard sweeps in to envelope the story.

Then there is the music. Whenever I think of a western score, I first go to the old Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns like Fistfull of Dollars, For A Few Dollors More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly or Once Upon a Time in the West. All of those classics had scores composed by Ennio Morricone. Morricone is quite frankly the John Williams of westerns, so there could be no better choice than him. His work on this film is intriguing in that it has its own distinct sound that’s starkly different than his previous work but still authentically western. It’s a haunting, brooding sound that works perfectly for the film. Yet, this is a Tarantino movie, so you will get a few tastes of music beyond Morricone including a Jack White song.

The third aspect that sets the film apart is they way it’s broken up into chapters. Now first off, let me state that I saw the 70mm Roadshow version of the movie, so I’m not sure how much, if any, that cut of the film is different from the standard version. But in the version I saw, the movie was broken down into chapters. Each chapter got a black screen with white text showing the chapter number and a brief title that gives viewers an idea of what they’re in store for. About halfway through the movie, there’s a little bit of narration that creeps in, very much in the way of stage narration as if you were watching a play or listening to an audio production. The effect is that it adds a story vibe to the movie, like you’re reading a western novel that’s coming to life in your imagination rather than just watching a film. That book vibe adds a certain quality to the film that I rather enjoyed. It adds a presentation to the movie.

So take it or leave it, The Hateful Eight is Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film and second western. Whether you believe his statements about retiring after he finishes his tenth film or not, this one definitely adds a unique entry into his filmography. The performances by the actors are great, especially Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Demián Bichir and Walton Goggins. Without revealing too much, Samuel L. Jackson steals the show as he becomes the primary character of the film. It’s a dark, twisted tale filled with despicable characters and some truly shocking moments that’ll either make you burst out laughing or recoil in disgust. It’s an acquired taste, I suppose, but The Hateful Eight was a film I truly enjoyed. I give it a five out of five metal bikinis.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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