The Hateful Eight (2015)

by Matt Piucci

Quentin Tarantino is a masterful director who commands great respect from me and I have seen all of his eight films. I don’t usually write about films that disappoint, but I am making an exception here. The Hateful Eight is his worst. Bloated and silly, it sputters for an hour and half before finally picking up speed and it does deliver a satisfying ending, if you happen to still be awake. After those 90 minutes, it is pretty good and has some of the zippy dialogue that shows why we liked him in the first place. But it is also a cautionary tales to all artists- do not get caught up in the process where form precedes content. It appears Mr. T. has done just that by falling in love with 70 mm, which is a detail, and forgetting things like plot movement and story. There is something of a story twist in here that makes the film somewhat bearable, but I can only give it a C, and that is being generous.

Tarantino has shown that he can do all of the things that go wrong here. For example, there are none of the tender moments of real humanity as in Jackie Brown, where talented actors like Pam Grier and Robert Forrester were allowed to show their chops. The story of unrequited love between a man and women in their fifties was genuine and original and it remains my favorite of his. The flamboyance and wit of Pulp Fiction made the creepy scenes like the one with the gimp seem fresh and funny (as well as disturbing). Both of the Kill Bill films are magnificent, really playing to Tarantino’s wheelhouse in that it is essentially a cartoon, a graphic novel come to life, where the central female characters are rich and textured. It also helps that the scenes of violence are gloriously choreographed, unlike The Hateful 8. Unfortunately, there are at least three separate scenes where disgusting moments appear merely gratuitous, not supported by imagination. They are just gross and these grotesque moments are not tempered here by witty dialogue, fresh character takes or the outrageous set ups of his earlier works.

One more problem. What is it with Q and the “n” word? Does he feel that gives him credibility? Does he believe that this is an attractive feature that connotes “edginess”? To me, it is inexplicable and stupid. The word is used dozens of times in this film to no effect whatsoever, other than to annoy. And as if insulting African Americans isn’t enough, the female characters in this story are paper thin, two-dimensional non-entities, a far cry from the Kill Bill duo and Jackie Brown. Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is a terrific actress, seems to be competing with Leonardo De Caprio’s Revenant character for most abuse heaped on an actor in 2015. Virtually every conceivable body fluid is dumped on JJL (thank god a few are left out)- she is punched, shot, slapped and barfed and bled upon. But Tarantino makes her a one-dimensional monster and there is no sympathy for her in the way there is for the main character in The Revenant (a much simpler, better film.) It makes me wonder if he can really write female roles anymore. Leigh will get some Academy play just because of the abuse, and she says a few foul things herself, which I suppose garners her “credibility” in this twisted world

Sadly, the movie does not get rolling until Channing Tatum shows up, who does a fine job and the twist made me feel as if the exercise was not a complete waste of time, but it really was already too late. While I admire Mr. Tarantino and his body of work, shelling out the extra four dollars to see the 70mm version just doesn’t seem worth it to me. Rent it later when you can take your own intermission. Or two.

 

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