First things first: if you can’t stand gore and nudity, stay away from this film. For most people, this should be obvious considering who’s directing, but you never know. Despite the different pace and direction Quentin Tarantino takes on “The Hateful Eight” compared to his other films, is still a Tarantino film through and through. The violence is pulpy, humorous personalities are in abundance and the race card is played liberally throughout.
With that said, however, “The Hateful Eight” is a different kind of Tarantino film. It’s a smaller tale with far less scope than his typical fare, and the first act takes it slower than usual. While this may put some Tarantino-philes off, the pace does rocket up in the second half, which is when “The Hateful Eight” truly becomes a memorable experience.
The story revolves around eight Western characters as they seek refuge from a blizzard: two bounty hunters (Samuel L. Jackson, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and Kurt Russell “Bone Tomahawk”), a bounty (Jennifer Jason Leigh, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”), a would-be sheriff (Walton Goggins, “Predators”), a British dandy (Tim Roth, “Pulp Fiction”), a mysterious cowboy (Michael Madsen, “Kill Bill”), a humble Mexican (Demian Bichir, “The Bridge”), and an old Confederate general (Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”). When all eight of them converge on a small stagecoach lodge, tensions rise and it becomes clear that all of them have their own ulterior motives on how to get out of the blizzard alive.
It may seem like, with eight leads, the story is hard to follow. It isn’t. Tarantino was inspired by the mysterious outlaws of shows like “Bonanza” or “The Virginian,” and imagined a film filled with nothing but those kinds of characters. To compensate for such a large cast, the scope of the film is shrunk down to just the lodge. Almost the entire movie takes place in one room, as our eight leads interact with one another. It’s a setup that could easily have been a stage play.
The small setting allows for much more character development, which we know Tarantino is fantastic at considering his previous work with films like “Pulp Fiction.” The audience’s focus is always on the characters, and they shift eyes and display subtle clues that not all is as it seems.
The film’s pacing is very slow; much slower than Tarantino’s other films. “The Hateful Eight” opens with a cart ride with our two bounty hunters that lasts what seems like a half hour. The film’s action doesn’t ramp up until halfway through, which is about an hour and a half in. For many, that pace is too slow, especially for a writer like Tarantino. This allows for his character development to shine, but while the characters have a lot of cool things to say, the molasses pace can leave a lot to be desired.
When the pacing ramps up in the second half, the film gets really good. We see those developed characters in some dire action, and their extended development makes us more invested in their actions in the long term. It becomes a total thrill ride right up until the end.
If you can withstand a long and slow opening, “The Hateful Eight” is another great pulpy Western from a man with fantastic writing and directing chops. Tarantino fans have probably already seen it, but if you’re just looking for a great mystery with great characters, it’s hard to go wrong with this.
Film: The Hateful Eight
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Genre: Western mystery
Release Date: December 25, 2015