Quentin Tarantino is no longer an unknown commodity. We are well past the days of QT stomping into the studios’ yard and stealing their ball just to shake things up a bit. Tarantino has become his own brand, and like it or not, he’s carved out his very own niche to amuse himself. He’s still as divisive as he ever was, but now he has studio support, financial security, and audience applause to soothe the pain that any critic of his particular version of high art mixed with exploitational nihilism might bring. He has become the ultimate love it or leave it director and The Hateful Eight will do nothing to shift anyone’s feelings for the man. Those that love Tarantino will gush over his genre mashups and ability to write scene chewing monologues like no other. Detractors will point to the obscene violence that punctuates the film and Tarantino’s willingness to go to darker places than any mainstream director will go. If you’re new to Tarantino this isn’t the film to start with. Start with his earlier work that has a few more rounded edges to soften the blow. But for those that have already picked out a Love/Hate camp The Hateful Eight will fit nicely into the appropriate mindset. I happen to fall into the love camp and will likely remain there for the rest of his career.
The Hateful Eight is set in Wyoming a few years after the Civil War and we meet our first few characters on the snowy terrain as a blizzard is raging up behind them. John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) are two bounty hunters forced together by circumstance that are looking to take their claims back to Red Rock for the payout but the weather is forcing them to take shelter to wait out the storm. After picking up a man that may or may not be the new Sherriff of Red Rock they head to Minnie’s Haberdashery, but when they get there they find three strangers instead of Minnie and the usual occupants. What plays out is a cat and mouse game of intrigue and deception where no one can be trusted and everyone has their own motives.
What plays out is an intensely misanthropic version of Clue, albeit, one that includes Tarantino’s own blend of racism, sadism, sexism, and violence. There is the language that has become a fixture of QT films, and seeing as how his last cinematic racial epithet won an Academy Award I don’t see that changing anytime soon. There is the staggering amount of violence both subtle and over the top. There is even the Mexican standoff that manages to feature in all of his films. The best way to describe The Hateful Eight would be that it is a western version of Reservoir Dogs mixed with John Carpenter’s The Thing.
The Hateful Eight is a much better film than Django Unchained if only because the audience wants to hear Tarantino dialogue. Django had a few speeches here and there, but was mostly a love letter to exploitation movies. Hateful Eight plays more as a western thriller and gives the characters more than ample time to speechify to the heart’s delight. This is what I want out of Tarantino film. I want his words being said by the fantastic stable of character actors that rush to be in his films. I want that gleaming nihilism that no other director can quite match. I want these movies that only Tarantino can make. The Hateful Eight is one of those Tarantino films. The choice is love it or leave it and I choose to love it even if I can completely understand why some will leave it. The Hateful Eight won’t win new converts to Tarantino’s camp but it sure will please those already converted. Grade: A-