By Christian DiMartino
Quentin Tarantino’s films are best known for two typical traits: Over-the-top violence, and whip smart, crackling dialogue. I’ve seen all of Tarantino’s films, and it is truly a rare event when one of them DOESN’T make my ten best list. His great films (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol.1 & 2, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained) usually leave me floored. Those two traits I mentioned earlier are always on glorious display, and if anyone knows how to make something, well, “badass,” Tarantino would be that person.
The word on his latest film, The Hateful Eight, is split down the middle: Some love it, and some say it’s his worst. After seeing it for myself, I have to say that the naysayers must be on some crack-cocaine. The Hateful Eight is yet another Tarantino masterpiece, and it is probably the best 2015 movie-going experience I had, and I didn’t even see the special roadshow version.
Perhaps people don’t like it because of the storyline’s simplicity, and here and there, I feared I wouldn’t either. But Tarantino has brought the big guns: beautifully filmed by three time Oscar-winner Robert Richardson, perfectly and chillingly scored by the legendary Ennio Morricone (who could and should finally sweep up an Oscar), and written and acted to absolutely bloody awesome perfection, The Hateful Eight is a classic three-hour whodunit that never runs out of steam, even when you feel it might. Granted, if you don’t like Tarantino’s work, two things: who are you? And stay away.
As I said, the story is kind of simple: John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell), a bounty hunter who, rather than kill his bounties, would rather see them hanged, is transporting a psychotic fugitive named Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock, in order to collect his bounty, and see justice served. Along the way, he runs into Maj. Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), another fellow bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a racist who claims he’s the sheriff of Red Rock. They join The Hangman on his journey.
They just so happen to be in the middle of a blizzard, so they stop by Minnie’s Haberdashery until the storm clears out. There they are met by a few guests: Bob (Demian Birchir), a Mexican who is running Minnie’s, Oswaldo (Tim Roth), the actual hangman of Red Rock, Gen. Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern), who should go without saying, and Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), who claims he’s on his way to see his mother. Trouble is, Ruth believes that one of them is in cahoots with Daisy, and that they won’t stop until Daisy is let loose.
Let me just say that if you aren’t a fan of violence, this is not the film for you. Ruth constantly hits Daisy in the face, and especially in the final act, brains are splattered across the wall. Now maybe I’m crazy (and sometimes I wonder), but even in these violent moments, I still laughed. In fact, I laughed like bloody hell throughout much of The Hateful Eight, mostly because I either couldn’t believe what I was seeing, or because Tarantino’s dialogue is so great. Either way, I think the man did his job right.
People will probably complain about the fact that Leigh is constantly hit in the face, but here’s the thing: she’s practically one of the guys. She’s scary, she’s foul-mouthed, she’s pure evil. It’s a brilliant performance from Leigh, an actress who I have always liked. We’ve seen her play crazy in Single White Female, so when I heard she was on board, I had faith, and she really brings game here.
Hell, everyone does. I felt as if all of these performances deserved some sort of recognition. They handle Tarantino’s dialogue with such gusto and charisma… and with a straight face no less. They have to know that what they’re working with his hilarious, but they’re all up to the challenge.
The Hateful Eight is an absolute blast, and I’m not referring to the heads blasted off (yes, someone’s head is literally blown off). From the second I heard Morricone’s chilling score (this is the first time Tarantino uses an actual score, rather than a soundtrack), I was immediately ready for the next three hours, and honestly they were three hours that zoomed by.
Of the releases of 2015, it may lack the power of something like Room or Spotlight, but in terms of pure enjoyment, I don’t know if I actually enjoyed any other movie up to this point. It’s a brilliant, gorgeous, hilarious, thrilling, obscene, disgusting, wild, awesome, and… did I say brilliant? It won’t be a film for everyone, but I had a ball. Tarantino delivers again, and proves that even after 23 years in the business, he’s still got it.