The Hateful Eight review: Tarantino loses the plot with this unimaginative bore-fest
Did you know that The Hateful Eight is the eighth film by Quentin Tarantino? It says so in the opening credits. Yep, it’s right there on the big screen in glorious 70mm format. Or digital. Honestly, the only thing more confusing than the current screening row, which has resulted in a number of Irish and UK cinema chains losing out on showing The Hateful Eight in various multiplexes this weekend (something to do with a format debate) is the matter of which version of Tarantino’s bloated and hilariously self-indulgent cinematic venture we were screened earlier in the week.
I think we got the 70mm “roadshow” version. In digital. With an overture, an intermission and a few extra minutes tacked on. All of which meant that the press screening I attended lasted more than three hours. That’s a lot of Tarantino to digest so soon after the Christmas holliers. But hey, let’s just push the controversies aside for a moment.
Basically, The Hateful Eight is another western; Tarantino’s second, in fact, following the success of 2012’s warmly received, Django Unchained. But it’s also a bit of a mystery, with the ‘hateful eight’ of the piece taking shelter from a blizzard in a stagecoach lodge (‘Minnie’s Haberdashery’) in Wyoming at the tail end of the 1800s, after the American Civil War.
One of the lads is a bounty hunter (Samuel L Jackson as Major Marquis Warren). Another is the next sheriff of a town called Red Rock (Walton Goggins as Chris Mannix). Another calls himself ‘The Hangman’ (or John), but is really just another bounty hunter who’s chained himself to his current prisoner, Daisy (Kurt Russell and a wicked Jennifer Jason Leigh). Some of ‘em rode in together — the rest (including Michael Madsen, Tim Roth and Bruce Dern) had already made themselves comfortable.
They’re all pretty despicable — some more so than others. Each has their own story (another hangman, a cowboy on his way home to the mammy for Christmas, etc), and they’ll share them in due course. But Minnie is missing, the blizzard’s getting worse, and there’s an awful lot of racial tension in this here Haberdashery (understatement of the year, that one). How will the next two or three days pan out? We might not even make it that far.
The first half is all talk — lots and lots of talk, with Tarantino stuffing each and every character exchange with so much repetitive exposition that, by the time we reach the intermission, we’re all very clear on the fact that WARREN RECEIVED A LETTER FROM ABRAHAM
LINCOLN. But Tarantino doesn’t do subtle. If there’s a silver lining to the man’s sluggish and unnecessarily puffy screenplay, it’s that he has assembled a masterful ensemble that, for an hour at least, sink their teeth into a horrid game of who can play the nastiest, meanest lodger.
Everyone, at some point, wins, because everyone is pretty much playing the same character (there are no redeemable souls in this cabin). It’s the closest Tarantino has come to directing a play, and there are times when the dialogue (mean-spirited but, occasionally, witty) crackles.
Still, for close to 100 minutes, nothing really happens, and you just know that the only thing The Hateful Eight is building towards is a horrendous, blood-soaked third act where, potentially, someone will lose their patience and start blowing heads off. There is no pay-off; no reason or validation for Tarantino’s story. Just six ‘chapters’ and eight armed strangers, holed up in someone else’s gaff on account of Storm Quentin wrecking the place outside.
It’s somewhere around the two-hour mark, however, that the wheels come off the wagon entirely and Tarantino (who also serves as a narrator… I know, I know), begins picking people off, adding poison and a mystery murder to the mix, hitting us over the head with Ennio Morricone’s unnerving score and wreaking havoc with a savage round of Cowboy Cluedo.
Seriously, it’s Agatha Christie Goes West — a loathsome, over-indulgent mess, badly in need of an editor. If Tarantino (a one-trick pony who peaked with Jackie Brown) focused less on homages, tributes, throwbacks and violence, and devoted more time to proper, fully-formed storytelling, he might have himself a cracking little western.
Instead, he gives us an unimaginative bore-fest in which one of the lads eventually suffers a gunshot wound to a particularly sensitive area. Crikey, the guy just can’t help himself. A horrible film.
Read Paul Whitington's 3* review: The Hateful Eight review - frustrating but fitfully brilliant