Movie Review : The Hateful Eight (2015)
* This review contains spoilers *
The Hateful Eight is one of these movies I should’ve reviewed years ago. Because it was an event, with the 70 mm theater showing run and whatnot. But enough time went by that when Quentin Tarantino fans look back on his career, it’s perhaps the last movie they’d want to talk about. No one hates The Hateful Eight, but no one cares about it either. There’s a cold indifference towards Tarantino’s second Western that is difficult to understand if you haven’t seen it. But let me help you: it’s a long, grueling experience and it’s worth watching at least once. Maybe not twice, though.
It’s hard to concisely explain what The Hateful Eight is about, but I’ll try my best. Bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is escorting Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock, Wyoming to be hanged. On their way, they pick up Ruth’s colleague and ex-Union army officer Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and outlaw Chris Mannix (the immortal Walton Goggins) who are stranded in the snow. But there’s a storm coming, so they race to a place called Minnie’s Haberdashery where they will spend the following two days with complete strangers. And you know that shit never went down smoothly in the old days.
There isn’t much about The Hateful Eight that grabbed my attention, but I thought one thing was out of the ordinary: there’s a lot of people dying a horrible death in this movie. By that, I mean they’re dying on screen and for an extended period of time. Of course, it’s meant to be funny and theatrical. Half of the cast dies projectile-vomiting blood halfway into the movie, Marquis Warren and Chris Mannix spend half an hour bleeding out before our eyes for narrative purposes, brutal stuff you don’t normally see in American movies. And that’s pretty confronting from a director that is known to entertain, first and foremost.
Our society has a problem with how it portrays death and killing in movies. It’s either a statement of one character’s power over the others or a simple problem resolution tool. But death - whether it comes through murder or not - triggers and entire philosophical, social and legal process that is always eschewed in films. But strangely not in The Hateful Eight. Narratively, it’s a locked-room mystery disguised as a Western, but thematically it’s about coming to term with your own demise and setting up your legacy. I believe that’s what fans might balk at. The Hateful Eight offers catharsis, but not a very satisfying kind.
Otherwise, The Hateful Eight is a little awkward to watch on a small screen. It was obviously not made for it. There are several long, panning shots where nothing happens that were clearly created for 70mm showings that don’t add anything to a living room viewing. It just slows down the movie’s pace to a point it becomes almost unbearable to watch. I think Quentin Tarantino knew that. He designed The Hateful Eight to be an anachronistic moviegoing experience and it would’ve had a better legacy if it had only existed that way. It would’ve been forever associated to the mystique of its viewing process along with its narrative content. But go tell that to Harvey Weinstein.
So, I wouldn’t say I liked The Hateful Eight. But I didn’t hate it either. It was like eating a slice of cold pizza for breakfast. Theoretically awesome, but impossible to enjoy the way it was meant to be. Quentin Tarantino, a director with a campy style, explored ideas outside his comfort zone that were challenging and borderline unpleasant to watch in it, but it was a welcome change from his usually witty badass characters who swing wit, dicks and guns around like they’re 13 year-olds at a Halloween party. I mean, there is some of that, too. But finding Tarantino’s dialogue wonderful was not the only point of The Hateful Eight. That might explain why it didn’t fully connect with a rabid fanbase.