Movie Review: The Hateful Eight
By Felix Quinonez
January 6, 2016
After a three-year absence, Quentin Tarantino returns with his eighth directorial effort, the uneven, sporadically entertaining The Hateful Eight. Thanks to Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, two of his most crowd pleasing and commercially successful movies, Tarantino has been in a career renaissance of sorts.
But looking back on those movies, there seems to be something uncharacteristic about their eagerness to please. (Especially Inglourious Basterds) In hindsight, it feels like a conscious effort to win back some of the fans he may have lost with Death Proof (from the Grindhouse collaboration with Robert Rodriguez). That movie was a rare misstep from a director with such a strong grasp on his craft that his only competition is himself.
And that brings us to The Hateful Eight, which finds Tarantino in a rare mood. He seems more concerned with entertaining himself than captivating viewers. And he wastes no time testing the audience's patience, cashing in on all the goodwill he’s earned with his previous work. The opening title sequence is a study in self-indulgence and definitely foreshadows what’s in store. The music - at odds with the visuals - very slowly builds to a crescendo, while on screen there is nothing but a horse-drawn carriage riding on a snow-covered field. The music tries really hard to build tension without letting the viewer know why.
The protracted opening scene culminates when a lone stranded figure is revealed. But instead of serving as some sort of a payoff, this feels more like a relief. And that’s when the story proper begins. The man is Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a bounty hunter transporting the corpses of three outlaws to the town of Red Rock. Unfortunately, his horses couldn’t make the trip and with a blizzard on the way, he is now in desperate need of a ride.
But the man inside the carriage, bounty hunter John "The Hangman" Ruth (Kurt Russell), isn’t very inviting. He’s escorting fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock, and she is handcuffed to him. At first Ruth is hesitant about giving Warren a ride, but after a typically entertaining negotiation, he comes around. And with Warren now in tow, it isn’t long before they pick up another passenger. This is Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), the soon-to-be-appointed sheriff of Red Rock.
With the blizzard fast approaching, they decide to take refuge at Minnie's Haberdashery, a saloon or inn of some sort. Once there, they find the proprietors conspicuously missing, and in their place are four mysterious characters, including a retired Confederate commander, (Bruce Dern) who massacred black Union soldiers during the civil war, a traveling hangman (Tim Roth) and two others with suspicious backgrounds (Michael Madsen and Demian Bichir).
The plot is fairly simple. One could even refer to it as Tarantino’s attempt to make Clue: The Movie. Basically, these untrusting characters are stuck together for a couple a days while they ride out the blizzard. But it isn’t long before bodies start dropping and they are forced to get to the bottom of the mystery. In typical Tarantino fashion, this involves a lot of bloodshed.