Classic Review: The Hateful Eight (2015)

Happy New Year! To celebrate the first day of 2017, here is my review of the first movie I saw in 2016, The Hateful Eight, which originally appeared here.

While racing toward the town of Red Rock in post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) encounter another bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a man who claims to be a sheriff. Hoping to find shelter from a blizzard, the group travels to a stagecoach stopover located on a mountain pass. Greeted there by four strangers, Bob (Demián Bichir), Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), the eight travelers soon learn that they may not make it to their destination after all.

I am very excited since this is my first (of hopefully many) films of the year. So this is the latest film from writer/director Quentin Tarantino. For the few who haven’t seen any of his films, they definitely have their own style featuring smart dialogue, original mouthpiece characters, good soundtracks, and violence just to name a few. The Hateful Eight is his eight film and this one is about a bounty hunter named John “The Hangman” Ruth (Russell) on a quest to return his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Leigh) to town to claim her bounty. Along the way, the pair run into another bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) and another man claiming to be the sheriff of Red Rock. To find shelter from a blizzard, they find shelter within a haberdashery (which I will call cabin from now on). Inside they find four strangers who may not be what they seem. I will say that this film is on the long side but most Tarantino films are. I do think it could have been shorter but I didn’t mind this as much. This story is told in the form of several chapters chronicling the journey of Ruth and Domergue to Red Rock, from within a horse buggy to the cabin with the four strangers during a blizzard. Some might find the plot a little slow because it spends a lot of its time in 1 or 2 places, and I also did to some extent, because the plot flowed slowly as it was leading up to the film’s final act. I did not mind this as much because of all of the performances and also Tarantino’s script. What I’ve always liked about Tarantino films are the great and memorable characters they contain and this film is no different.  Samuel L. Jackson, who has been in multiple Tarantino films, has his best performance in a long time here as Warren often getting the crowd in my theater cheering or laughing (as I was). Jennifer Jason Leigh was great here as well as Domergue having just the right amount of vileness and slipperiness with a little bit of scariness. She has already received nominations for this role which I can understand. What really sold me what her chemistry with Russell’s Ruth since their many exchanges were one of the best parts of the film. Because this is a Tarantino film, expect a lot of violence but I never found it over-the-top. The story was probably the simplest for a Tarantino film but it is told in a more complex way with twists and turns, driven by morally ambiguous characters. One thing that I didn’t like about this film was the lack of character development. Sure there was a cloud of mystery above a few of the characters but I would have liked to have known more about them. Some of them including Roth’s Mobray and Madsen’s Gage seemed a little pointless to me. Although it is explained to a certain degree, I just would have liked more. Other than the racist undertones in the story which obviously involve Jackson’s character, I didn’t know much about him either. The musical score in this film was perfect as it suited the plot and general vibe of the film perfectly. Overall, this isn’t my favorite Tarantino film but it’s characters and storytelling make it all worth it.

Score: 9/10

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