Look, I sat through Tom Stoppard’s twelve hour “The Coast Of Utopia”, so a three hour movie wouldn’t bother me at all, the reason Quentin Tarantino’s drawing room play whodunnit gussied up as a period piece Western made me restless was because the interminable first act was all exposition and the payoff didn’t pay off handsomely enough.
Not a million miles away from QT’s directorial debut in 1992, “Reservoir Dogs”, a drawing room play whodunnit gussied up as a heist movie, it is still light years behind his 1994 breakthrough “Pulp Fiction”. The thing about “Pulp Fiction” was that it was about something, in the midst of its blood and guts was the story of saviors. John Travolta saves Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis saves Ving Rhames, Samuel L. Jackson saves Tim Roth, and the movie’s structure saves John Travolta. The more you thought, the more you got and it is the one and only time Quentin joined the ranks of the greatest American filmmakers, the only time he deserves the accolades.
Since then, Tarantino has released consistently violent action movies with dialogue about half as clever as he thinks it is. And so with “The Hateful Eight”, an Antebellum Western lodged at “Mimi’s Haberdashery” in Wyoming where two stagecoaches are stuck in a snowstorm overnight, the owners, Mimi and husband, are not there, and people are not who they appear to be.
Bounty Hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is taking Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to be hung and collect 10K reward at Red Rock, he meets with an old acquaintance Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) also on the road to Red Rock, and finally the stranded soon to be Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). Waiting for them at Mimi’s to sit out the storm are four more strangers, including Bruce Dern as a Colonel in the Confederacy and Tim Roth as an English hangman.
Once we are all there we sit and wait for another ninety minutes and two flashbacks for the inevitable bloody ending and a couple of plot twists. If, like “Django Unchained”, there was a sort of rethinking of history, of concepts of Mandingo, or if there was the clever clever alternative history “Inglourious Basterds”, perhaps it would be worth the hours of nowhere near clever language. But there is nothing to make it more than what it is, stick a buncha violent men and a woman in a room and leave em to it. Fine by me, but a good editor could have cut it in half and brought it in at a fast paced 90 minutes of sneer sneer shoot shoot. Instead no one will shut up, they just talk and talk and talk. It is irritating. Still, the acting is fabulous, both Jackson and Russell bring a lot of history to their roles, and Bruce Dern with his weasley face, permeates a sort of moral bankruptcy shined up as fair play. Jennifer Jason Leigh is the only woman in the world charming with a face full of blood.
Not the disaster the NYPD were hoping for, and ripe for Harvey Weinstein to turn it into a Broadway play, “The Hateful Eight” is a minor league Western with very little of the stuff that made Westerns so great once upon a time –except for the Ennio Morricone score of course. Just be grateful Quentin didn’t call it “Stagecoach”.
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