Three stars. Rated R, for strong bloody violence, gore, profanity, graphic nudity and racist behavior
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 12.31.15
Quentin Tarantino’s best films are highlighted by deliciously snarky dialog, scene-stealing — and sometimes career-reviving — performances by delectable character actors, and twisty scripts that build tension to the screaming point.
The Hateful Eight gets two out of three.
Tarantino’s tough-talkin’ homage to classic Westerns — complete with an awesome new orchestral score from 87-year-old Ennio Morricone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), his first Western score in 40 years — simply doesn’t have enough story to justify its butt-numbing 182-minute length. The set-up is rich with potential, and it screams for the multiple back-story treatment that made Kill Bill so engaging ... but no; aside from two brief flashbacks, we and the cast are stuck in the same claustrophobic cabin for three interminable hours.
Granted, the actors do their best to hold our attention. Ultimately, though, the posturing and narrow-eyed ’tude can’t make up for a script that doesn’t kick into gear until after the intermission (roughly 100 minutes in).
Tarantino makes us wait much too long for the good stuff, and by then things are rather anticlimactic.
And yes, I’m fully aware that the “good stuff” is the enfant terrible filmmaker’s gleeful dollops of blood and gore. But even here, it feels like Tarantino is only half-trying; having teased us with a cabin laden with hammers, shovels, iron spikes and all sorts of other implements of potential mayhem, he settles for gunfire. Which, tasteless as it sounds, is quite disappointing.
As he did with Kill Bill, Tarantino divides this saga into chapters, starting with “Last Stage to Red Rock.” The setting is post-Civil War Wyoming, with a six-horse stagecoach doing its best to outrun an approaching blizzard. The driver is forced to halt after coming upon former Union soldier-turned-bounty hunter Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), perched in the middle of the road atop three of his sanctioned kills.
Warren’s horse has given out on him; he’s hoping for a lift to Red Rock. But that’s a problem; the stage has been chartered exclusively by fellow bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell), who is handcuffed to his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and escorting her to a date with the hangman at Red Rock.
The wisely suspicious Ruth views any strangers as either a) somebody trying to steal his bounty; or b) somebody trying to rescue Daisy. But it turns out that Warren and Ruth know each other, if only vaguely; the requested ride is granted, if grudgingly.