Quentin Tarantino. A mere mention of that name sparks a fire in the hearts of his devoted and vocal fanbase. It immediately brings praises of excellence, grandeur, and eminence. It evokes a level of enthusiasm within fans that no level of criticism can quell. Quentin Tarantino is considered by many to be a cinematic master, the greatest working filmmaker, a peerless screenwriter, America’s premiere auteur. Considering all of that, why is it that I still haven’t bought into the Tarantino hype?
Make no mistake, Quentin Tarantino is an auteur. He has defined himself with such a heavy yet specific style of filmmaking that genuinely feels foreign to all other visions. He dabbles in all sorts of genres and his love for cinema, all kinds of cinema, finds its way into every one of his pictures. But he has such a strong allegiance to the aforementioned style and I often find his films rely too heavily on it. And the response to his style is overwhelmingly positive which leads to Tarantino often getting passes when it comes to his shortcomings particularly in his writing.
Still, no one can deny that a new Tarantino release is an event filled with pomp and pageantry and that brings me to “The Hateful Eight”. It’s Tarantino’s eighth or ninth feature film (depending on how you look at it) and his second western in a row. As with every one of his pictures “The Hateful Eight” draws inspiration from all directions. Where “Django Unchained” drew from the spaghetti western genre, Tarantino says this film takes more from the television westerns of the 1960s although I would say very lightly.
The story is broken up into six chapters although that is more of a stylistic choice. Individually each chapter is more or less the same. It opens shortly after the Civil War with a rough and surly bounty hunter named John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth (Kurt Russell) on a stagecoach escorting his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the Wyoming town of Red Rock to be hanged. Along the way he meets an old acquaintance and fellow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson). Once the two meet Tarantino wastes no time developing a racial tension that will permeate his entire film. It is only magnified when they pick up Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins) a Yankee-hating Confederate renegade claiming to be Red Rock’s soon to be new sheriff.
With a strong blizzard approaching, the three men, the prisoner, and the stagecoach driver (James Parks) take shelter in a remote lodge called Minnie’s Haberdashery. Inside are four other characters seeking refuge from the storm. A Mexican named Bob (Demián Bichir) is watching over the place while Minnie is visiting her mother. Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) is a chatty Englishman who also happens to be the territory’s hangman. General Smithers (Bruce Dern) is a cranky old Confederate officer. And then there is Joe Gage, a soft-spoken cowboy on his way to see his mother for Christmas.
The title is a reference to these eight men trapped in the lodge together until the storm blows over. It’s here the story becomes somewhat of a mystery after John Ruth randomly discerns that someone in their company is there to rescue Daisy. The film then begins its looooong trek to discover who isn’t the person they claim to be. And when I say long I do mean long. The majority of the film is confined to this big one-room lodge so Tarantino can’t fall back on his vivid visual style of storytelling. Therefore his script has to carry much of the load and, as with some of his other films, that is the movie’s greatest weakness.
In a nutshell “The Hateful Eight” is insanely overwritten. Tarantino can undoubtedly write good dialogue and there are exchanges here that are fantastic. At the same time he bogs his movie down with pointless and sometimes repetitive back-and-forths that drag the movie to a halt. I didn’t see the full 187 minute roadshow version, but the 167 minutes I did sit through definitely had its lulls. Even more surprising were some fairly obvious plot holes particularly in a pretty important flashback segment.
And some of his dialogue is certainly suspect. Again, I’ll grant that Tarantino wants to make some kind of statement on racism, but frankly his constant flippant use of the N-word didn’t offer me any meaningful commentary and what may be there is thinly represented. I give filmmakers a ton of room for expression, but I can easily see where his use of such incendiary language could be offensive. Same with the brutality towards the main female character some of which is played for laughs.
Also QT’s obsession with jarring, over-the-top content is here as well which in this case isn’t a positive. We get it through sudden bursts of gratuitous violence some of which was just too silly to appreciate. And the worst comes in one absurd flashback sequence narrated by Major Warren. It’s a bizarre and over-the-top scene that felt much more at home in “Pulp Fiction” than “The Hateful Eight”. It took me out of the moment and felt terribly out of place.
But so as not to completely slam the movie it’s worth noting the positives. The film looks really good. Again, I didn’t get to see the 70mm roadshow but this version had plenty of nice visual flare even though the majority takes place in a one big room. I also loved what we got of Ennio Morricone’s original score. Unfortunately he isn’t allowed to score the entire film, but what he does is superb. And despite my misgivings with much of the script, Tarantino gives us some wonderfully unsavory characters that each have their moments.
I also think all of the performances hit the right notes. Jennifer Jason Leigh is getting a lot of awards buzz and she’s really good despite mainly serving as Tarantino’s physical and verbal punching bag. Kurt Russell is a surly hoot sporting the burliest of handlebar mustaches and Walter Goggins is surprisingly great in what is one of the film’s meatier roles.
It may not sound like it, but I do appreciate many of the ideas Quentin Tarantino plays with in “The Hateful Eight”. Unfortunately those ideas are weighted down by an indulgent and overblown script that wastes too much time trying to be clever and edgy. Even Tarantino’s signature humor misses more than hits its mark. I’m sure Tarantino die-hards will love it, but for me “The Hateful Eight” comes across as an hour’s worth of good material stretched well beyond its limits.
I saw the 187-minute 70mm roadshow version as I read that the 167-minute version has some alternate scenes and such that isn’t in the 187-minute cut. I was fortunate to see the 70mm version as for me, it was the version that I knew that Tarantino wanted audiences to see. I can understand some of the issues that you have for the film but I was enthralled by it as the 70mm presentation definitely won me over.
I’ll be honest, even though the version I saw looked really good, it wasn’t what I would call a visually arresting picture. I wondered if the 187 minute version spent more time outside showing off the 70mm. I saw it on a really good screen but nothing it offered visually was enough for me to shake my gripes.
I’m sure the general release looks good but I chose to see it in 70mm as I realized that this might be the one chance to see it in that presentation. I knew what Tarantino was aiming for but I also knew it was going to be different. Sure, everyone will claim it’s unoriginal but. Then again, he’s always borrowed from filmmakers he loved.
That’s the real sucky thing. The 70mm show was never even available anywhere around me so I never had that option. The limited engagement idea was garbage.
Oh shit. You would’ve missed something special whether you liked the film or not. The intermission between the two halves would’ve helped at least.
I know! Living in small markets have so many disadvantages.
That SLJ flashback moment was so bizarre and mostly unfunny. Couldn’t QT had achieved the same effect with something less over the top?
As you said though, tons to like. My last Music post will definitely feature Ennio’s score, and I did like the plot and even the ending. But the early dialogue (which may require another watch or two), didn’t feel like we got anything more to the characters and bogged down the movie early until the cabin is reached.
But, I am interested in watching again. Great review!
Thanks man. I’m glad someone else thought the flashback scene was bizarre. Didn’t you think it clashed with practically everything else in the film?
And to be clear, I’m not speaking out against all over-the-top violence, etc. But QT sees that as such an important part of his style and he will shoehorn it in anywhere. That scene could have been handled so much better.
great review Keith, but I gotta disagree with u on a bunch of things. I loved this movie and enjoyed the dialogue so much. In QT movies, the dialogue is a character in and of itself and helps give us an idea of who the characters really are and how complex they are.
I also saw the 167 min version and wasn’t bored for even a minute because I found it all so captivating.
Can’t wait to see it again and hope that one day I’ll get a chance to see the 187 min version
I appreciate it. I think many people feel the way you do especially big QT fans. I love thick well-written dialogue. I do think we get a little of that. But as I mentioned, I felt QT (for some reason) was working really, really hard to stretch this thing out.
Nicely stated as per usual Keith. I’m now getting ancy to see this in the “glorious 70 mm presentation” that has been so aggressively touted. I’d like to know what I’ve missed in a purported opening sequence and the intermission.
Hmm. On its merits. This isn’t vintage QT, I’ll chalk that up to Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and Django possessing such incredibly iconic, fully-formed and realized characters. Hateful has strong xharacters, but what I got our of it more than anything, was the fact my attention was held constantly, despite the runtime (in my view, a bit excessive) and a max of two major sets. I really dug this one.
The unsavory characters are interesting and the performances do a lot to enhance them. But I felt QT bogged them down with pointless banter and often repetitive conversations some of which simply offered him more opportunities to throw in the n-word. I do love some of his ideas, the two set thing being one of those.
Great read, Keith. Even as a fan of QT I recognise all the faults you mention; the heavy style is something I enjoy but it is often distracting and I have wanted to see him make a “less-overtly Tarantino style of film” for years now (maybe working off someone else’s screenplay would be a start). This opens here on Friday and I’m keen to see it (167 min version…don’t think 70mm is showing near me) but regardless of that your criticism is well argued!
Thanks Stu. And you may really go for this one. I know a lot of people who like it a lot which furthers my perplexing disconnect with many of the movies he makes.
I think you nail what originally enticed me about this one. I knew going in that this was a more confined picture meaning (or so I thought) that QT would give us something unique. To a small degree he does but he just can’t help but wedge in his beloved style at several points even if it didn’t fit.
I’ve seen it compared to Reservoir Dogs by a few people now in the sense that it’s just (mainly) the one location. I’m keen to see whether that’s OK with a much longer film…
For me the location thing was an interesting idea. But Dogs ran 90 to 100 minutes. That would have helped this one a lot. That would require QT to deal with some of the film’s other problems and annoyances.
Argghhh! I haven’t watched many Tarantino movies but I do want to see The Hateful Eight. However, that runtime makes me want to cry and knowing how much pointless dialogue in there makes it worse! I will do it though! Great review 🙂
Definitely see it simply because there are many QT fans out there and most really like this flick. But to be honest in have no interest it sitting through it again anytime soon. Definitely later though.
I had the chance to see it in 70mm. All your points are valid, even though I’m on the other side of the fence cause I loved this. Things I do agree with: Walton Goggins and Jennifer Jason Leigh are highlights and both deserve recognition for their roles. And it certainly is a beautiful looking film. I wanted more Morricone score. I understand people’s trepidation with QT’s use of the N-Word. I’m a bit more lax on it in a movie like this or Django as opposed to a Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown where it’s more modern. I always look at it from a historical perspective in cases like this. I also was cool with the length and dialogue. I was hooked on every word. Certainly not saying anything you’ve written has no merit cause it absolutely does. I just fell on the side of enjoying this more than a lot of people have. More than Pulp Fiction which I have never enjoyed. Another great read sir!
Thanks man and I completely respect your take on it. I know many people really enjoyed this. I’m with you in regards to the N-word in movies but only if I do feel it is part of a meaning expression or a historical account. I think that would describe some of his use in this movie, but so many times I felt QT was using it with little aim in mind. That bothered me a bit. One day I will give this another look. But as someone who really loves rich dialogue, I just found this slow and disappointing.
I have to say that I thought it was good and even entertaining but certainly irresponsible – in the treatment of Daisy and the glorification of SLJ’s character. But the response from Tarantino’s fanbase to my article, Sasha Stone’s article and this movie has been so reprehensible that I kinda dislike Tarantino now just for how stupid his fanboys are, I recently also saw him arguing with some women on TV that movies and real life are different and he appeared so childish and out of touch in his arguments it was sad to watch. And he has unleashed images of women being beaten for laughs – gee, I wonder if it was wise given who the majority of his fanbase appears to be
Oh I need to check out you write- up! I will say that QT is right that movies and life are different. But there are themes, messages, commentaries that movies play in. There is also the creative mind who builds the movie as ‘entertaining’. The running gag of violently punching the one significant female character in the face ran its course with me. I quickly realized he had nothing meaningful to say about it.
Great review. Even as a fan of Tarantino, I liked but couldn’t love this. It had too many problems. The treatment of Daisy’s character, his overuse of the N word (which has always bothered me, even in Pulp Fiction) and Jackson’s flashback was creepy and really sort of glorified sexual assault. That didn’t work.
Exactly. Each of the things felt so forced to me – Tarantino showcasing HIS style and forcing it onto the material. Jackson’s flashback was ridiculous and so foreign to the movie at that point. The other two issues could have been used for some kind of meaningful commentary but I didn’t get that at all. I felt it was simply Tarantino getting his kicks.
Nice review Keith. Personally I think The Hateful Eight is the film of the year. I would disagree with you on the movie’s regard to the n-word, it demonstrates the constant barrage of racism Warren faces throughout the movie, indicative of what still many African-Americans face today.
Thanks man. I knew you were a fan. Haven’t read your full review yet. Wanted to see it first. I’ve heard that argument about the n-word usage but for me he didn’t do anything to telegraph that message other than an obvious SLJ speech that last about 20 seconds and to title one chapter “Black Man, White Hell” (which may or may not even apply). And several of the uses seemed strictly for laughs. To be honest I think his overuse of it eventually dulls the power of it. By becoming common speech in his movie I slowed down in trying to find a point to it.
Great review Keith! Sorry to see you didn’t like it more. I am hoping to catch it this weekend, I have been so excited about it because I absolutely love Tarantino!
Thanks Zoe! He definitely has a strong fanbase. I appreciate some of what he does. This one didn’t hit home for me at all.
Nice review. I agree that this film is heavily overwritten; I did find myself wondering why the dialogue wouldn’t end, but it still kept my attention. It was good, but not great…not oldschool Tarantino like I think we all want to see again.
Thanks Courtney! I really think he was stretching his material way too thin. I think if he would have shortened the length, tightened up the dialogue, and left out some of his self-indulgent flourishes this would have been a much better movie. But there are many people who do disagree with me.
Oh boy. I’m seeing this in about an hour and a half. My friend already bought the tickets. I’m looking forward to it, as I love Tarantino. But man, all of his movies are long and dialogue heavy, and I’ve always had the luxury of watching them at home where I can relax. I’m seeing this after a work day and that scares me a little. You brought up my biggest fears. Hopefully I get a different feeling after it, but it is tough to look forward to sitting in a theater for 3 hours, especially if it doesn’t hold my attention 100%. Django flew by in the theater, but this sounds like a very different movie from that one.
It is a different movie for sure. But just keep in mind that there are many people who really like this one especially big-time Tarantino fans. So you may have a good time with it. For me it was a bit of a slog mainly because he insisted on stretching it out as far as it could go and then some. And then of course he had to add his excessive flourishes which I thought clashed pretty heavily with the bulk of the film. But again others have seen it very differently.
I’ll find out soon enough! Great review though 🙂
Thanks a lot and I hope you enjoy it. After all going to the theater is always a good time (in one way or another).
You were definitely right about a lot of things. I did enjoy the movie, but my god was it longer than it needed to be. Especially in the first half hour. Once they got in the cabin, things moved a little better, and I loved the rest of the movie but I think it was one of Tarantino’s weakest. Django Unchained had a more entertaining, fun feel for me. This was very slow moving. I’d still give it a fairly decent rating though.
Just wanted to come back and tell you my brief thoughts now that I’ve seen it!
Thanks for letting me know. I’m very interested in people’s reactions to the film. Honestly I’m glad you did find enjoyment in it. At the same time I’m glad I’m not alone when it comes to some of the film’s faults. For me this was a case were QT’s allegiance to his style kept this from being potentially one of his best. A tighter and more focused script would have done wonders in my opinion.
Exactly! And I even saw the shorter version. I don’t think I want to know how the 187 min. version would make me feel.
I’m thinking it included more time outside (to show off the 70mm) and a pretty substantial intermission. I don’t know. I think 167 minutes was enough for me.
Almost too much if we’re being painfully honest. haha
Haven’t read the review (will be seeing it Friday and don’t want anything spoiled), but 2,5 feels pretty low. Hope I will enjoy it a bit more than you did!
I hope you do too. Many people do. But many people are also much bigger QT fans than me. I just had several issues I couldn’t quite get past. But if you are a fan of his work you may have a good time with it.
Well, I am so that give me a bit of hope 🙂
I was thinking you were. I do think that will give you a little bit of an age. I have heard from many QT fans who have really enjoyed it.
Nice review, it seems to have got some mixed reviews as of late. But I’ve heard a whole lot of praise being aimed at Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Thanks man. I know I’ll be in the minority (again) when it comes to Tarantino but this thing flounders in so many areas for me. I truly believe if QT was so beholden to his over-the-top style and he concentrated his focus on a tighter script, this could be truly great.
Leigh is really good but honestly she doesn’t have a ton to do. Mainly just get beaten to a pulp through the whole thing.
But, are you a Tarantino fan? If so you very well may like this one my friend.
I do like quite a bit of Tarantino’s work, I’ll be sure to see this so I can give my opinion. The work of Tarantino does tend to divide the opinion of many I have found.
It does indeed. For me I see strokes of brilliance which frustrates me. I want more of that but its often drowned by his dedication to his form and formulas. I’m anxious to hear your thoughts. Seeing it soon?
He does know how to craft witty dialogue and outrageous set pieces. I hope to see it soon, hopefully when I get the time and I’m not busy.
Good! Let me know what you think.
You’ll be the first person to know.
Oy, I guess I’m glad I didn’t end up seeing this on the big screen (as the press screening was scheduled whilst I was on holiday). But my pal Ted saw it and I’m curious what he thinks as he loves QT. “…indulgent and overblown script” Heh, that’s never a good thing!
I know many of his fans really went for this and to be honest I completely expected that. But as someone who sees his stuff from a more critical perspective I actually thought this one may slightly win me over. Nope. Turns out it was a complete waste of a good concept and an example of why I feel the praise for QT as a writer is a little undue.
Also be warned (even though you probably already expect it), this movie has it’s share of standard Tarantino gratuitous violence some of which is so pointless and ridiculously over-the-top. But it’s gruesome…needlessly so.
Awesome write up, Keith! QT hasn’t done anything for me since the Kill Bill films. He’s become his own sort of stereotype and he leans heavily on what works from other genres and films and inserts it into his movies and successfully (sometimes) covers it his inimitable dialog, rawness and stylish long takes. He has a hell of an eye and can edit the heck out of a film with that auteur aplomb but I feel that he is just regurgitating what he has done before over and over again and putting his “Stamp” on it. (Kind of how every John Carpenter film feels like a western, though they clearly are not.)
I watch recent QT flicks only when I am in the right mood for his over-indulgence. Gotta say, though, QT is a bright guy and his love and respect for cinema and the film masters is contagious. I love listening to him speak. Gonna wait for the blu ray on this one. (I do wanna see Russell on the big screen, though, so I’m conflicted lol). Nice job, man!
Man I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading your response. I think most people really go for his movies. I think he has completely fallen in love with his own style. And you’re right, that stamp is something he seems compelled to put all over his pictures. This particular movie had an opportunity to be something highly original and fresh. I thought for a moment that he was going to show restraint and do some new and interesting things. Unfortunately that’s not the case at all. Tarantino fans will undoubtedly like it. I found to accentuate particular flaws in his script.
Saw this the other day and I have to say I tend to agree with your comments. Particularly your thoughts on Tarantino’s “long scene” methodology, where he overwrites a moment between characters by a few extra hundred words than is absolutely needed. The whole “Abraham Lincoln?” “Abraham Lincoln!” “THE Abraham Lincoln?” “The Abraham Lincoln” moment was awful, and the “dingus” monologue did feel out of place as you said.
I won’t say it’s my least favorite QT film (Jackie Brown, I’m looking at you) but it’s low on the list, near Deathproof, for me.
You know, I was beginning to think I was on a deserted island completely alone with my opinion on this film. You are spot-on with your example of his overwriting. The movie is full of drawn out dialogue just like that. I suppose if you are completely wrapped up in the movie those things can be overlooked. For me they kept pulling me out of it.
Great work bro! Although I don’t agree on the rating, you make many points that I do agree with. It is definitely stretched and indulgent. Major Warren’s flashback did seem more suited to Pulp Fiction too (I liked it but it did seem misplaced). That said, I’m more forgiving than yourself when it comes to Tarantino’s style. There’s a vibrancy that few, if any, other directors can continually achieve. This is certainly not his best work but I really had fun.
Thanks man. For me I get hints of that vibrancy. But I also see Tarantino forcing himself on so much of the movie. I can’t shake the idea of how superb this movie could be if he would (or could) remove some of himself from it. A lot of really good pieces are in place.
I seen what your seeing. His ego is starting to irritate me a little and it certainly shows in this film. Probably more so than any other film he’s done. I think when he threw the rattle out the pram about the leaked script, shows just how self-important he is. It’s not a redeeming quality.
Very true. I still do consider him an auteur. I wonder if he is going to stick with his ’10 movies then retire’ statement?
I do see him sticking to his tenth feature rule. To be honest, I think it’s because he’s running out of ideas.
I think you may be right.
Hey Keith, just came back from seeing it and I loved it. The dialogue was fantastic and some nice build up during some moments. What’s the plot hole you refer to? Just wondering.
(SPOILERS) – for others
One of the big ones for me involved General Smithers. In the flashback he is sitting in the outpost playing chess with a guy who seems to know him. He talks about enjoying beating him at chess. Later they both act as I they don’t know each other. I’m also surprised to see him so comfortable considering the place was ran by African Americans who we learn he thoroughly detests. And Channing Tatum really let him live simply because he thought he would look more realistic and he promised to behave? That kinda clashes with the harsh brutality we had just witnessed. Those are a few things in that chapter that didn’t make sense to me.
But I am glad you enjoyed it. We definitely disagree on some of the dialogue but a lot of people, especially QT fans, really went for it.
Too bad u didnt like it, but I just loved it. Even more than Django I think
Many do, especially Tarantino fans. I appreciated elements of it but was completely frustrated with others.
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