Title: The Hateful Eight
Language: English, Spanish
Genre: Crime, Drama, Western, Thriller
Director/Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Music: Ennio Morricone
Cinematography: Robert Richardson
Samuel L. Jackson
Jennifer Jason Leigh
In post-mortem, if we must find a fall guy for the calamitous upshot of Tarantino’s latest gory saga THE HATEFUL EIGHT, which of the hateful one do you pick? Without too much struggle, I will say it is the bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Russell), who insists on taking his quarries alive to see them hang, even in the case of Daisy Domergue (Leigh), who is wanted dead or alive. If only he could ape the fashion of his fellow black hunter Major Marquis Warren (Jackson), the story would have ended in a more insipid but undeniably more efficient and casualty-less note.
The truth is, sometimes, once a certain reputation has been established, to alter it may not be all that easy even if it means less trouble involved for pragmatic reasons, and surely, John Ruth doesn’t care for the easiest way, he sticks to his gun until he meets his maker. Or the same thing can be referred to Mr. Tarantino himself, who has become overwrought to retain his brand of overripe violence and loquacious confidence, which obstructs his attempt of going further.
Tarantino’s script is also cagey about the backstory of Daisy, what she has done to make her a wanted outlaw worth 10,000$, a quite obvious concern no one cares to broach during their over-elaborate political and radical prattle, even gauging by her last name alone, Ruth or Warren should have gotten an inkling about what could happen en route to their destination, a town called Red Rock in Wyoming. That is unfortunately a scriptsmith’s job to pre-empt these inauspicious after-thoughts from audience, which rarely happens in Tarantino’s previous output.
This one-day stretch story occurs in the same time frame of Tarantino’s previous DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012), a few years after the American Civil War, but structurally much more stage-oriented, with the preponderance of the happenstances being hemmed inside a stagecoach lodge (imitate a big soundstage) due to a blizzard outside, it tellingly reminds us of RESERVOIR DOGS (1992), a similar whodunit trope (initiated by Tarantino’s own voice-over) also takes place just when all the political rebuke, repetitive woman-beating, racist teases and gross provocation start to pall. A tangible intensity duly engages when a flashback chapter narrates the horrid slaughter happened earlier at the exact place, we were all haplessly sitting in the darkness, waiting for the blood-spluttering brutality to pour out. Afterwards, it goes without saying, no one can come out of the shoot-out unscathed, and a frontier justice (deliberately elucidated by Tim Roth’s Oswaldo Mobray with an unsubtle Christoph Waltz impression, earlier in the casual padding) symbolically settles the score in the money shot, to suggest after all, there are righteous heroes in this trigger-happy milieu crammed with hateful individuals.
The film is shot in the rare Ultra Panavision 70 process, credits must be given to its cinematography for its sporadic but grandiose snowscape by DP Robert Richardson, while most indoor shots are fluidly choreographed and unobtrusively operative. Much kudos to Morricone’s Oscar-winning score as well, palpitates closely with the film’s mood swings and flares up when the visual grandeur emerges.
Jennifer Jason Leigh finally joins the Oscar-calibre echelon after being the most overlooked actress (as for as Oscar is concerned) of her generation, her performance here is unabashedly attention-grabbing, even when she is sitting there wordless, motionless, often chained with Russell’s Ruth, she is enigmatic to regard (stunning makeup work here too), although her Daisy turns out to be out-and-out evil, when the crunch hits, there is a wishful thinking that she might get her way, not because we are rooting for her, but her feral, blood-covered ferocity is such a zinger on the screen, especially for female characters. Among the rest seven, Samuel L. Jackson is finally first-billed in a Tarantino’s picture after a collaboration stretching over two decades, his swagger and flair is undeniably fetching, his arch ambivalence hangs tough until he gets shot in the balls (his manhood bravado gets its comeuppance). Walton Goggins, plays Chris Mannix, the supposed new sheriff of Red Rock, unexpectedly becomes the most important asset in the third act, in spite of an almost farcical front in his greenness, while all the others are typical Tarantino pawns, including the secret hateful No. 9, Channing Tatum.
For my money, THE HATEFUL EIGHT can still quench the thirst of Tarantino’s devout cinephiles, since he knows exactly what they want, the excesses of unrepentant gore, piled-up body counts and the psychological maneuver, but if you are intrigued to see if he has learned any new tricks, the answer will be disappointing.