Cinema Reviews : The Hateful Eight

By John Campbell

This is Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film. We know this because it’s the first thing we read in the introductory credits. Even by Hollywood’s immodest standards, such hubris is laughable. Further, as an act of self-reference – if not self-reverence – the auteur has included that number in the title, presumably having pre-determined that his work will be held in the same high regard as John Sturges’s The Magnificent Seven (1960).

You can make up your own mind, but what the movie is most assuredly not is unpredictable, concluding in celebratory death and bloodshed. His acolytes, those who see Tarantino as a counterculture hero (even though he still flies in the pointy end of the plane), argue that he is being ironic, but I just wish he’d grow up.

His story is set in the deep winter of Wyoming shortly after the Civil War. A stagecoach, an enduring icon of the Western genre, features prominently in the beautiful opening sequences as it makes its way through the snow to the staging post of Minnie’s Haberdashery. On board, the bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) has handcuffed his captive outlaw Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). In transit, they pick up Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson), a veteran of the Union army, and shortly after Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins), the new sheriff of Red Rock. Overtaken by a blizzard, they hole at Minnie’s with a handful of suspicious strangers, including the wonderful Tim Roth as Mobray the hangman.

Weighed down by dense verbiage to begin with, the dialogue gets even wordier as the players cleave off into alternating groups to do set pieces in which long-winded exchanges thicken the plot while bluntly addressing matters of philosophical import, primarily to do with race.

As a mystery along the lines of ‘who will be last man standing’, it keeps you guessing, and if you enjoy seeing people’s brains blown out in the interest of hipster art, then it is, like, really cool. Otherwise, the movie is best appreciated as an insight into America’s moronic obsession with guns.   

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