Saturday, January 2, 2016
THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Quentin Tarantino's THE HATEFUL EIGHT is overlong, wildly uneven, and incredibly indulgent. It's a Tarantino movie on steroids. Those who believe that Tarantino is a genius will be fascinated by it, while those who are inclined to find the filmmaker's signature style annoying will consider sitting through the nearly three hour-long movie to be excruciating.
The thin plot revolves around a legendary bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) attempting to bring in a woman wanted for murder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in post-Civil War Wyoming. A blizzard forces captor and captive to stop at a way-station before they can get to their destination, and they meet up with several mysterious characters. Each of these characters harbor secrets, and a bizarre cat-and-mouse game begins as all assembled wait for the storm to subside.
Being that this is a Tarantino movie, the "Eight" of THE HATEFUL EIGHT are as eccentric and quirky as possible. Each line of dialogue is loaded with various meanings, and every look or glance may have a bearing on the story. If this movie were 90 minutes or so long, the "Tarantino-speak" would accentuate the tension, but after almost three hours, it becomes tiresome. It doesn't help that all the major characters are unlikable, and the audience spends most of the time waiting for the inevitable bloodbath (and when said bloodbath comes, it is laid on with a trowel).
I'm a fan of Tarantino's work, and I knew coming into this film that it would have moments of sadism and shock. But in THE HATEFUL EIGHT, the writer/director seems more than usual to want to tick off people. There's a point in about the middle of the film, during a flashback, that a cringe-inducing moment is shown (I'm not going to describe it--you'll know it if you see the film). This moment is so blatantly over-the-top that it takes you not only out of the time period the story is supposed to be set in, it takes you out of the main story, period.
I've read in a number of reviews for THE HATEFUL EIGHT that the movie is supposed to be "political"--that somehow it is a parable for America's history of racism, or America's history of misogyny, or America's love of guns. I don't buy any of those theories--I think those writers are giving the movie way too much credit. Tarantino has taken a simple story and blown it so far out of proportion that it's hard to figure out what he was trying to do with it.
It's kind of a waste that the movie just doesn't come together, because there are some good (if florid) performances in it by almost the entire cast. One thing you cannot deny about Tarantino is that he always goes out of his way to showcase his performers. Robert Richardson's cinematography is exquisite, and the movie's biggest highlight may be the original music score by the Maestro himself, Ennio Morricone.
But I have to say that I found this movie to be something of a disappointment. Maybe THE HATEFUL EIGHT was just too much to take in at first--this may be a title that demands multiple viewings. I must point out that I did not see the 70mm "Road Show" version of the film, which apparently is a different cut than the "regular" version.
Quentin Tarantino is one of the most interesting writer/directors making films in this day and age, and I at least have to give him credit in creating something other than the typical superhero-type action flick. But I think he went way overboard with this project. I can imagine someone like Budd Boetticher taking this same story, filming it as a 1950s B Western, cutting out all the bloody extremism and bad language, and coming up with a far better product.