The Hateful Eight tries too hard to meet its lofty expectations
Quentin Tarantino’s eighth feature length film, The Hateful Eight, takes place near the town of Red Rock shortly after the Civil War. A bounty hunter named John Ruth (played by Kurt Russell) is escorting the fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock when a blizzard hits and they get stranded in a small inn outside of town with six other mysterious characters. Tensions run high as John Ruth protects his bounty, not knowing who to trust or who may be trying to free the outlaw. The film also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Bruce Dern.
Clocking in at just under three hours, the movie felt like it was twice as long as it needed to be. Tarantino attempted to recreate the minimalism of his first film, Reservoir Dogs, by keeping all the action inside of the inn and using a relatively small cast, but this film did not have the same charm as his earlier work. The entire movie was shot on 70mm film, which made the establishing shots of the mountains and landscapes in the beginning fantastic, but added nothing to the claustrophobic setting inside of the inn.
The film was ambitious to say the least, but in execution it did not stand up to those ambitions. Considering the minimalist setting, character development should have been paramount, yet I had a hard time caring for any of the characters. The dialogue felt forced and lacked the wit seen in his earlier films like Inglourious Basterds or Django Unchained. The acting was very animated and over the top, making it difficult to take any of the characters seriously. Tim Roth seemed like he was attempting to emulate Christoph Waltz the entire time, which lacked originality and in the end was unconvincing. Samuel L. Jackson provided the only exception; every time his character spoke he commanded the audience’s attention.
When it comes to violence and gore, this film was plenty and grotesque, even for a Tarantino movie. While his previous movies featured an extensive amount of stylized violence, it could be argued as tasteful because it fit with the genre of the films and was necessary for the plot, but The Hateful Eight lacked that sense of style. The camera dwells on gunshot wounds and spouts of blood for an unnecessary length of time and almost seems to relish in it, highlighted by the extensive use of slow motion that can be best described as corny.
Being a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino’s previous work, I went to this film with high expectations and left feeling disappointed. Tarantino has mentioned in interviews that he plans to stop directing movies after making a couple more, describing directing as a “young man’s game,” and after seeing this film I feel like it is for the best. Though I can appreciate what he attempted to do with The Hateful Eight, it fell miserably short of that goal and failed to hold my attention.