The Hateful Eight
THE HATEFUL EIGHT, comedy/drama/mystery, rated R; Regal Stadium 14, Jean Cocteau Cinema, Violet Crown, and DreamCatcher; 3.5 chiles
This, the poster tells us, is the eighth film from Quentin Tarantino. If you’ve seen any of the others, you know what to be prepared for. There will be blood.
Tarantino has a lot of the naughty boy in him, and his urge to shock and gross out is irrepressible. He does it with images, and he does it with words. The thing is, he is a consummate filmmaker, and his words and his images are bursting with imagination, invention, and even beauty, although you may want to look beyond the blown-off heads, severed limbs, projectile vomiting, repellent tales, and a more abundant use than you will find north of a cheap dive in Mississippi of what we choose to call the “n” word.
He does this in the service of something that combines a classic Western with elements of The Canterbury Tales, a little drawing-room detective story, and a slaughterhouse. He sets most of it in one room, after an extended opening that is confined to a stagecoach. All of this is set against the smothering, claustrophobic embrace of a raging, tearing blizzard. And it’s all shot on 70-mm film with an Ultra Panavision lens, something that hasn’t been done in a very long time.
Tarantino’s hateful eighth feature unfolds in chapters, and at its center are a couple of bounty hunters bringing their scores into the little Wyoming town of Red Rock to collect their rewards. Samuel L. Jackson is Maj. Marquis Warren, late of the Union Army, who carries with him a personal letter from Abraham Lincoln. His bounties are of the dead persuasion (“dead or alive” are the operative criteria). When he flags down a stagecoach heading for Red Rock, he’s hauling a stack of corpses and his horse is dead, so he cadges a ride. The coach is chartered by a colleague named John Ruth (Kurt Russell), known as “the Hangman” because he always brings his charges in to be hanged rather than choosing the simpler expedient of shooting them. Ruth is handcuffed to a nasty piece of work named Daisy Domergue, played with venomous glee by Jennifer Jason Leigh, whom he is escorting to a date with the hangman in Red Rock. And filling out the stagecoach party are the driver, O.B. Jackson ( James Parks), and another hitchhiker, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who claims to be on his way to become the new sheriff of Red Rock.
As the winter storm bears down, they stop at a way station called Minnie’s Haberdashery, where they take shelter and encounter the rest of the cast of dubious characters. I’ll leave you to meet them there and to uncover their secrets and lies. Suffice it to say that there is plenty more to unfold, then an intermission (a sentimental nod to old-fashioned epics), and then much more of the story and the gory to follow.
Leading the pack of swaggering, full-throated performances is Jackson, who is about as tough and smooth and vengeful as a man can be. And driving it all is Tarantino’s terrific storytelling, loaded with clever, nasty, exuberant dialogue and his love of movies. — Jonathan Richards
Pulp friction: Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson