Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern
“When John Ruth the Hangman catches you…you hang!”
Tarantino and his dream team, consisting of an outstanding cast, the masterful scorer Ennio Morricone, and cinematographer Robert Richard (with whom Tarantino has worked on Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained), have produced a film that does not disappoint. Each character in the film is scrupulously written and played, which is one of the films biggest strengths. The Hateful Eight is love letter to Western films, but it’s also one that can be appreciated by those who aren’t a fan of the genre.
Synopsis: Six or eight or twelve years after the Civil War, a stagecoach hurtles through the wintry Wyoming landscape. The passengers, bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), race towards the town of Red Rock where Ruth, known in these parts as “The Hangman,” will bring Domergue to justice. Along the road, they encounter two strangers: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a black former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a southern renegade who claims to be the town’s new Sheriff. Losing their lead on the blizzard, Ruth, Domergue, Warren and Mannix seek refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass. When they arrive at Minnie’s, they are greeted not by the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces. Bob (Demian Bichir), who’s taking care of Minnie’s while she’s visiting her mother, is holed up with Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the hangman of Red Rock, cow-puncher Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, our eight travelers come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock after all…
It’s always extremely amazing to me when a director is able to make an engaging film that takes place in one or two different settings. So, I was stunned by the fact that although The Hateful Eight is a lengthy three hour long film, it moves by so quickly that the timing doesn’t feel like its nearly that long. The pacing in the beginning of the film does drag a bit, however. Tarantino spends plenty of time on “Chapter 1: Last Stage to Red Rock,” the only part of the film that takes place in John Ruth’s stage coach. While Tarantino uses this time to diligently develop four of the eight main characters, it runs on a bit longer than necessary. Still, the lengthy chapter does serve its purpose, and the audience gets quite a good sense of these characters.
Speaking of the characters – the eight key players in the story are done magnificently. Major Warren, in particular, brims with ferocity and wit that Samuel L. Jackson brings to the role. There’s really only one word that can appropriately encompass Warren – badass. Jackson owns the room with his stance alone; and the killer dialogue that Tarantino has written is like a cherry on top when spoken in Jackson’s trademark drawl. Also, Jackson is accompanied by a talented ensemble. Jennifer Jason Leigh, who plays the fugitive Daisy Domergue, creates a truly deplorable character – so much so that the audience can barely find an ounce of sympathy for her when John Ruth beats her. Sheriff Chris Mannix is also a fun character, played by Walter Goggins. Mannix has a somewhat likeable naiveté, making the audience love him every so often, until he makes his occasional racist remarks. Most of “the eight” are characters of this sort – usually appealing, but sometimes (appropriately) hateful. The ensemble cast and the remarkable characters that they play are definitely the best part of the film.
Towards the tail end of the movie, Tarantino falls back on his classic tricks – tension, ridiculously gruesome violence (although it’s not as bad as it is in some of his previous films), and a plot that revolves around revenge. Ennio Morricone has written a fantastic and heavily stringed score, with grumbling melodies that start in the bass, cello, and bassoon sections and push the audience members to the edges of their seats. In several parts, the film relies mainly on the music to produce the thrill, and Morricone more than rises to this challenge.
Bottom Line: The Hateful Eight is a fantastic film that Tarantino’s fans will love. Though the film is by no means his best, it doesn’t disappoint.