A wicked Western

The Hate­ful Eight is not one of Tarantino’s best films, but it is still a de­li­ciously slow-burn­ing, lov­ingly spun mys­tery with a fire­cracker of an end­ing, writes Grethe Koen

CityPress - - The Good Guide -

ny­one fa­mil­iar with won­der­fully per­verse di­rec­tor Quentin Tarantino will know that his films are a slow brew with an ex­plo­sive, and some­times toxic, end­ing. It’s all rich, metic­u­lous di­a­logue and de­li­cious sce­ne­set­ting un­til the shit hits the fan.

his eighth fea­ture (by his count), takes that for­mula to the nth de­gree. In this Western-style mys­tery, we are in­tro­duced to nine char­ac­ters holed up in a snowed-in road stop called Min­nie’s Hab­er­dash­ery and, as slowly as the pitch-black coffee they all drink, the ten­sion starts brew­ing.

Some of the char­ac­ters in­clude John “The Hang­man” Ruth (Kurt Rus­sell), a bounty hunter who’s just bagged Daisy Domer­gue ( Jen­nifer Ja­son Leigh), an in­fa­mous mur­der­ess; Chris Man­nix (Wal­ton Gog­gins), a toothy South­erner on his way to take up his po­si­tion as sher­iff of a small town; Oswaldo Mo­bray (Tim Roth), an as­tute English­man who also hap­pens to be a hang­man; Joe Gage (Michael Mad­sen), a qui­etly brood­ing cow­boy; and Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), a re­tired gen­eral who led a South­ern brigade dur­ing the war. Then there’s Sa­muel L Jack­son as Ma­jor Mar­quis War­ren, who, by virtue of be­ing black in post-Civil War Amer­ica, be­comes the cat­a­lyst that makes the po­tion ex­plode.

And ex­plode it does, with Tarantino writ­ing an­other role of a life­time for Jack­son. Through­out, War­ren is a right­eous gun­slinger who has learnt to sur­vive in an Amer­ica that would rather see him dead. He is street­wise, cut-throat, right­eous, at times bit­terly funny and his nar­ra­tion cli­maxes (pun in­tended) in a story of sex­ual vengeance so in­sane that it had the whole cinema laugh­ing in­cred­u­lously.

By far, the big­gest scene-stealer in this Tarantino out­ing is Leigh. Her won­der­fully off-kil­ter por­trayal of a dev­il­ish vil­lain is de­lec­ta­ble to watch. She’s all snarls, know­ing grins and ma­ni­a­cal laugh­ter. She chews and spits to­bacco like the boys and gets rough­housed like one of them too.

The scenes of Domer­gue be­ing punched and el­bowed by Ruth are un­com­fort­able, and are meant to be. They sit ner­vously be­tween com­edy and cru­elty, and make us flinch in­stead of revel in the vi­o­lence. They’re a con­dem­na­tion of Ruth rather than a cel­e­bra­tion.

Tarantino, who has cre­ated some of the most mem­o­rable fe­male char­ac­ters in cinema – Jackie Brown; Uma Thur­man’s roles in Kill Bill and Pulp Fic­tion; the women from Death­proof – does not re­ward Domer­gue with a tri­umphant story arc and it felt like a bit of a let­down. I wanted a fist-inthe-air fem­i­nist mo­ment and didn’t get it, but I ap­pre­ci­ated that she still ex­ists boldly out­side of how women in Westerns are usu­ally por­trayed. She’s not a femme fa­tale, buxom sa­loon girl, stoic farm wife or damsel in dis­tress.

De­spite all this praise, The Hate­ful Eight is not Tarantino’s finest work. If you want to see the di­rec­tor tackle race, Jackie Brown or Django Un­chained have more clout. If you want su­pe­rior pas­tiche and ac­tion, opt for Kill Bill or Pulp Fic­tion. And if you want de­li­cious di­a­logue, Reser­voir Dogs and In­glo­ri­ous Bas­terds did it for me.

Nev­er­the­less, The Hate­ful Eight still stands head and shoul­ders above most other fare on of­fer in cin­e­mas right now, and it’s a wor­thy ad­di­tion to the Tarantino li­brary.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

PER­FECT STRANGERS From left: Kurt Rus­sell, Jen­nifer Ja­son Leigh and Sa­muel L Jack­son star in a Western with a dif­fer­ence

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