Rating: C+/ Well, you certainly can’t accuse Quentin Tarantino of false advertising. These eight characters are, in fact, hateful. And then some. Let me just preface this review by saying I love Tarantino’s movies. Usually. But his latest effort, The Hateful Eight, stands as one of his weakest so far. Usually, we can follow Tarantino into the craziest plots, the nuttiest situations that he conjures up before us. His movies are self-indulgent as fuck, films derived from films derived from other films, but that matters to us not one whit. The man has a gift; for dialogue, for characters, for pitch-black, twisted humor that is as prevalent in his films as the ubiquitous big twist in a M. Night Shyamalan flick.
Usually in Tarantino films, characters who are likable in any typical way are hard to come by but the protagonists have at least one redeeming quality, or at the very least have some charisma to spare. This is not the case with The Hateful Eight. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about these characters, and that in of itself poses a bit of a problem; why should we care about any of these people? In Wyoming shortly after the Civil War, bounty hunter Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) gets stranded in a doozy of a snow storm and is picked up by the unscrupulous John Ruth (Kurt Russell) in his caravan.
John, also a bounty hunter, is bringing murderess Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to face justice in the form of execution. The three disparate characters stop at a stagecoach lounge to seek shelter from the storm and meet up with the other five miscreants predicted by the title. Nobody trusts anybody, and if you know Tarantino, you know the scenario is going to escalate into a full-fledged bloodbath after a period of witty banter and oddball exchanges.
The thing is, The Hateful Eight is not up to par with Tarantino’s other movies in the dialogue department. Okay, Kill Bill wasn’t a cornucopia of conversation (the Bride was too busy cutting arms and legs off ) but most of the time these movies are based just as much on talk as on gore. Pulp Fiction is a perfect example. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of discussions held in this movie, but they lack the power and the virility of the filmmaker’s earlier efforts. Not to mention the movie is almost three frickin’ hours long. It’s not worth watching twice for the sheer length alone.
It’s barely watching once, thanks to the unevenness of the script (a narration, provided by Tarantino himself, appears abruptly 2/3 of the way through the movie to tell us what’s going on) and the lack of anyone to root for. Disturbingly, Daisy is brutalized throughout when she doesn’t deserve ill treatment any more than the other assholes featured in the movie. It seems like we’re supposed to get some degree of lurid enjoyment out of her continual abuse, but how can we, when the other characters are just as bad, if not worse? It’s not that I liked Daisy or thought that she was a particularly sympathetic character, but the protagonists are all horrible people. Why must her degradation be gloated over in pornographic detail?
The Hateful Eight isn’t actually a bad movie. It’s just disappointing considering how excited I was for it when the trailers first came out. I liked certain moments. I liked the actors. The results are ultimately underwhelming, and that’s a shame considering how wonderful Tarantino usually is. He’s got a gift for dialogue, but the dialogue was markedly more mundane this time around and the film had all the nastiness as per usual, with little of the cleverness or fun that made Pulp Fiction a hit. Among all of Tarantino’s work, The Hateful Eight shows it’s self-indulgence the most. One can only hope that Tarantino will step up his game by the time he starts his next project.