Movie Reviews: 'The Hateful Eight'

By Josh Melo


After an unfortunate script leak early last year, director Quentin Tarantino was reluctant to put the film into production. Luckily for him, positive word of mouth strengthened his resolve and the film was made. Unlucky for audiences, The Hateful Eight is a plodding trek filled with tedious exposition that remains watchable wholly due to its stellar cast.

The Hateful Eight begins with a lone man perched atop a stack of 3 cold corpses in the middle of a Wyoming mountain path leading to Red Rock. Further along that road is a horse-drawn carriage, which houses John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his murderous prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). After ample convincing, Ruth offers the man (fellow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren, played by Samuel L. Jackson) a ride. During their ride the two men happen upon Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), the son of a confederate war hero and supposed Sheriff of Red Rock. Reluctant to accept another passenger, on the possibility that he may be in cahoots with the $10,000 bounty Domergue, Ruth eventually concedes.

Unable to outpace the pursuing snowstorm, the carriage makes a stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a local hole in the wall to wait out the storm. Instead of opening the door to a welcoming Minnie, the myriad travelers are welcomed by four strangers; Bob “The Mexican (Demian Bichir), Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). Immediately suspicious of his companions, old and new alike, Ruth questions his surroundings unwilling to lose his bounty.

The Hateful Eight is a western detective tale through and through. Russell’s Hangman is tasked with weeding out who can be trusted and avoid those who can’t. With a cast of completely dubious characters, that isn’t the easiest thing to do, for The Hangman or the audience. That being said, as a detective story, bombast and spectacle are left to the wayside. Instead, witty banter and constant misdirection are relied upon to breath life into such a facile setting. Only the banter isn’t all that witty, leaving the dull setting to fend for itself. Only half of the characters are given any real motivation while the others are left to fill space in the otherwise empty bar. When any pair of characters are engaged in conversation the rest of the patrons can be found sitting lifelessly in the background or off screen doing who knows what to pass the time. The camera work makes the excessive dialogue as interesting as possible but with a run time of 167 minutes (187 if you catch the roadhouse version, which I did) even the most engaging of conversations is bound to get a little tired.

Of the Hateful Eight all actors give solid performances, imbuing their characters with a likeability that their histories and dialogue more often than not belie. Standing out from the rest of the cast, and saving the film from complete banality, are Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson. Both men bring a charisma lacking in the other characters. Even when the pair commits heinous acts you remain by their side for the length of their stay. Our introduction to Ruth involves him ruthlessly elbowing a woman in the face, yet we laugh. Warren is a pathological liar and ruthless old man killer; once again we stay by his side. It is a testament to these two performers because outside of their ability to draw in a crowd there is very little to like.

The main issue The Hateful Eight suffers from is its run time. Clocking in at almost 3 hours and with little to no action for the first 2, fans will be hard pressed to remain attentive. That’s where the performances step in. Only, despite the quality of the acting, the first 2 thirds of the film are delegated to plodding backstory that is rendered unnecessary by the time the third act rolls around. Shifting from a character piece to a full on cowboy crime story, blood covers the interior of the cabin and heads are blown off. It’s as if Tarantino realized he was ranting and suddenly remembered that his fans love excessive violence. It’s an abrupt change of pace and one that isn’t entirely earned.

The random turn the story takes eventually leads to an unsatisfying conclusion. The unending questions were all for naught and the sudden camaraderie between certain characters is entirely forced. Why spend 2 hours diving into the minds of these characters only to later reveal that every single thing they said was a lie. Why spend 2 hours of a film establishing relationships only to throw them out the window at the drop of a dime? The Hateful Eight is the example of poorly paced storytelling and unearned climax.

Overall The Hateful Eight gets a 5/10.