The Hateful Eight

 photo hateful_eight_ver10_zps13r4ig4p.jpg photo starrating-2stars.jpgBefore I begin my review, I must commend Quentin Tarantino for his commitment to cinematic style. The director has always been a student of film. He loves the medium and is well versed in its history. His latest was photographed using Ultra Panavision 70, a widescreen process usually preceded in print by the adjective “glorious”. It employs an anamorphic camera lens that allows for an extremely expanded aspect ratio of 2.76:1. The technology became obsolete due to cost. Most 70mm movies were also simultaneously released on 35mm for broader distribution. The format was only used on 11 pictures during the 1950s and 60s including Ben-Hur (1959) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962). The last being Khartoum in 1966. That is until now.

The Hateful Eight was initially released on Christmas Day to 100 theaters in a special “Roadshow” prestation complete with overture, an intermission and a souvenir program. For two weeks people could see the picture as Tarantino had originally intended. In this age of digital projection systems, This meant that the Weinstein Company had to equip theaters with 70mm projectors just so they could play the print. Then they had to train staff so they could properly monitor the projector as it was being shown.

In theory, the format allows for an unmatched experience of wider dimension, resolution and artistry that should make for a richer cinematic experience. An experienced projectionist is clearly a rarity these days because complaints of screening problems at the Roadshow engagements have been rampant on the Internet. Indeed at my showing, the movie was interrupted no less than 5 times during the presentation. At one point the film actually stoped and you could see it literally burn on the screen. Whoopsie! Additionally focus problems infested the entire picture, with parts of the image being crystal clear and others being incredibly blurry.

None of this has anything to do with the quality of the feature, but it certainly doesn’t help that The Hateful Eight is (wait for it) a hateful film. I don’t even know what constitutes the worst offense, but let’s start with the story. This dark comedic riff on the Western takes place post-Civil War. Bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) are traveling by stagecoach to the town of Red Rock, Wyoming. Along the way they encounter another bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and a man who claims to be the sheriff of that town (Walton Goggins). These four must soon seek shelter from a blizzard. It is there, in a little general store called Minnie’s Haberdashery, that they meet four more degenerates (Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern).

The Hateful Eight is a step back for Tarantino in the storytelling department. Bill Desowitz over at Indiewire noted the plot suggests Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None as well as the films Stagecoach and The Desperate Hours. That’s fairly apt, although the manner in which the script cobbles those inspirations is an absolute bastardization of far superior references. For the first half, everything unfolds in the tiny compartment of a covered wagon. Things culminate at a rest stop when Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) taunts General Sandy Smithers (Dern) with a tale of what transpired when he met the former Confederate general’s son. The speech is memorable but it’s the lone highlight of a nearly 90 minute intro that is all talk. Well that, and frequent jabs to the face of Daisy Domergue. She enters the movie with a black eye and things only get worse. She seems to relish each assault she endures with a smile of masochistic glee. I guess we’re supposed to view her battery with apathy because she’s such a nasty person. Actually everyone is despicable. Hence the title. Daisy uses the N-word so many times I grew desensitized to its meaning.  After awhile she might as well been calling Samuel L. Jackson a nincompoop.

The proper story begins in the second half when the ongoing talk-fest is punctuated by bursts of cartoonish violence that are clearly meant to be funny. Sadly they aren’t. Or rather thankfully, if you think deriving joy from murder is a bad thing. This is nothing new for Tarantino. There will be blood. You know what you’re going to get, but here it feels childish and immature, like a 5 year old that has only recently discovered that there’s a red crayon in that box of Crayolas and has decided to cover every page in red wax. People projectile vomit blood. A character is shot in the groin. Someone’s head is playfully blown off in cartoon fashion without any warning whatsoever. Can you build a whole comedy around shock death? I’m not laughing.

Quentin Tarantino has a lot of power. How many studios would give a director carte blanche to make a film this empty. The plot of this simple drama could’ve been the basis of a brisk 90 minute chamber play. Instead the chronicle is stretched to the elephantine length of over three hours.  That includes a 12-minute intermission. That’s fine if we’re talking epics like Gone with the Wind or Lawrence of Arabia. However it’s the height of Ultra Panavision 70 irony that the majority of the production takes place in the single room of a dark claustrophobic den of a set. Add to that narrative a complete cast of characters we couldn’t even give a care about. These people talk so much that when the bodies start dropping, it’s a relief because that’s when they stop yapping. Don’t get me wrong. A long winded drama can be enjoyable if it has substance, but even the script lacks the snappy zing that usually typifies Tarantino’s work. These are awful people that say ugly things. The Hateful Eight is the soulless work of an auteur that has set the majority of a 3 hour production in a dark room, but then filmed it all in a “gloriously” expensive widescreen process, simply because he can.

12-28-15

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26 Responses to “The Hateful Eight”

  1. I will watch it very soon as i am an ardent fan of Quentin Tarantino’s work. Thanks for the information you have provided.

  2. Nice review man. Sorry you didn’t take much to this. I pretty much worship all of Quentin Tarantino’s work and hope to watch The Hateful Eight over the weekend in 70 mm.

  3. Great review. 🙂 Damn! Sounds like a major disappointment. I was really looking forward to this! Now I can’t be bothered to go to it. :-/

  4. Awesome review and background to the film. I was excited to hear Ennio Morricone scored the film.

  5. A Tale of Two Dans Says:

    I actually loved it since it had a Reservoir Dogs feel and that’s one of my favourites of all time. But interesting thoughts either way. Good review Mark 🙂

    • I’ll take Reservoir Dogs over this any day. Dogs was twice the entertainment but at only half the length. The Hateful Eight was unbearably long.

      • A Tale of Two Dans Says:

        Yeah I still love Dogs much more than this movie but I actually didn’t mind the length. I have been watching a lot of old movies lately though, most recently Gone with the Wind so maybe I’ve built a tolerance 😉

  6. I haven’t seen the film yet, but when I do, I will still love this review even if I adore the film. That last paragraph is… wait for it… glorious. 😉

  7. I pretty much agree with you here. The 70mm screening I saw didn’t stop or break but there were some focusing issues. Shooting it in 70mm was pretty pointless though and not a likeable character to root for, although I guess it’s supposed to be Samuel Jackson and/or Walton Goggins, but the script didn’t give us enough to hang our hats on.

  8. smilingldsgirl Says:

    Tarantino films are too violent for me but I read your review with interest. It’s the first negative one I’ve read on the film. I certainly have no desire to see this one.

    • Although mostly positve, the film has earned more unfavorable reviews than anything Quentin has done since the “Death Proof” segment in Grindhouse. The Wall Street Journal’s “Warmed-Over Spaghetti” review was even more scathing than mine.

  9. Ugh, why are all these movies like 3 hours long. I noticed in your review of The Revenant you noted the running time as well, and I think b/c it’ll involve the likes of Leo and Hardy I won’t be as affected by the length, even though that’s still a really long time to sit still. For things like this, I don’t know. That just seems . . . indulgent.

    • I didn’t feel the 2h 36m runtime of The Revenant the way I did with this movie. I guess I just enjoyed that experience more. A LOT more. Then again The Hateful Eight is over 3 hours.

  10. Way too long. Ugh. Every conversation took forever. Of course, there is no sign of anything positive. Just negative, hateful people. Nobody to cheer for. 2 stars.

  11. I saw the movie yesterday, and it seems like you really don’t like Terentino’s sense of humor. I think most people do, so your movie review is much more biased than, what I assume, the others you’ve written.
    To everyone else, this movie was one of Terentino’s funniest, and although it starts off slow, when the action starts, it doesn’t stop.
    Not one of Terentino’s best, but it was a good movie.

    • Im curious how you know most people like Tarrantino’s sense of humor? Was there a study? Did it include the whole world?

      But you’re right. I don’t like Quentin Tarantino’s sense of humor.

      Of course I’m biased! That’s the whole point of my reviews or any film critic’s reviews for that matter. We all have preferences and partialities that accrue over our lifetimes and become embedded in our judgment of anything new. To prefer mashed potatoes over french fries is a bias.

      P.S. I loved Inglourious Basterds.

  12. Thankfully not one, but two theaters here in Boston were able to show Hateful Eight in glorious 70mm, with trained professionals at the helm. Being able to see the film in the format he intended really amped up the experience for me from the digital cut I watched before voting in BOFCA’s awards. There’s so much depth and texture not there in DCP. The movie is filthy and nasty, loaded with despicable characters, but I loved it. Sad to hear you didn’t. I can understand your gripes with the movie. I found the tension/build up in the first section to be fun and interesting, especially in how it zeroes in on post-Civil War racial tensions that I think are scarily relevant today. I enjoyed the interplay between the characters and the whodunnit taking shape for Samuel L. Jackson’s character to solve. Using only a single location added to the paranoia and tension between the characters. For me things moved quickly and the three hours flew by. The only section I felt was unnecessary was the one explaining how people got to the cabin.

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