“The 8th Film by Quentin Tarantino“. That’s a pretty pretentious credit to open your movie with. Like we should all be thankful that Tarantino has been gracious enough to bless us with eight movies. That’s what I wanted to think, that his ego and hubris had got away on Tarantino, that his bravado had finally overtaken his talent, But you know what, as aggravating as it is to admit, Quentin Tarantino’s skill as a writer and director aggravatingly lives up to his own bullshit. Because the 8th Film by Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight, is an amazingly unique and well executed piece of cinema.
John “the Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) rides through post Civil War America on a stage coach, trying to outrun a blizzard, with his latest bounty (Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dasiy Dermague) in cuffs. Picking up rival bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) and new sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) along the way, agendas are flying from the get go.
With the snow storm at their heels, the men and their captive find shelter at Minnie’s Habbidashery, a cabin oasis in the middle of the threatening elements. Inside, they meet Civil War general Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), suspicious cow puncher Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and local hang man, Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth). With thousands of dollars in bounties up for grabs, and an imposter in their midst, paranoia runs rife within the claustrophobic confines of their salvation from the snow.
Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Walron Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen… All Amazing character actors in a movie with no central, main character or hero. The Hateful Eight is a real ensemble piece, and amongst all of these great actors with great Tarantino dialogue, Jennifer Jason Leigh manages to own this movie with less dialogue than the lot of them.
Basically a parlour piece, the majority of The Hateful Eight is in one location and just an excise for a series of monologues by great actors performing great dialogue. It’s indulgent, arch and on the nose. It’s also brilliant every single step of the way. Tarantino, God bless him, has a talent for taking the way too obvious, way too clever and way too impressed with itself, and somehow making it work. The Hateful Eight is basically a 200 minute exhibition of that.
Tarantino is a possibly the world’s biggest nerd who also gets to work in the field that he’s a nerd about. The 70mm photography was a big selling point of The Hateful Eight, and the marketing hype, combined with Tarantino’s nerd-dome, more than pays off here. This is homage at its most thief like, but Tarantino steels and appropriates like no one else out there.