I like Tarantino. I like most of his films. But I don’t think he’s a flawless, genius, God-like director, he’s pretty good. That’s all. The Hateful Eight is pretty far from is best works, but it’s no where near his worst. In my opinion at least. I had a lot of problems with this film but I will say one thing: I enjoyed this film, despite the problems and I would recommend this. So, since I’m a lazy, un-talented hack of a critic, I’m going to do this review with the simple “Pros and cons” style. So, let’s start.
The performances are great all across the board. It’s no surprise, Tarantino writes his characters for actors and he usually can get anybody he wants in his movies so it’s rare that there would be a bad performance in his works. Kurt Russel shows a shit ton of charisma, Samuel L. Jackson is fine (I’ve never thought Jackson was an interesting lead, and he doesn’t prove me wrong here), Jennifer Jason Leigh was awesome as a total fucking asshole, Walton Goggins was no doubt my favorite character and performance and Bruce Dern was pretty good as well. The characters are somewhat interesting, everyone has a motive and everybody’s hiding something, they all have wonderful chemistry together. There’s no “Oscar-worthy” performance here, but still everyone was very solid.
Now, basically everybody has been hyping this film up because Tarantino shot this in 70mm, which is nice but nothing to rave about. Jeremy Jahns’ review (which I liked a lot) was almost cringe-inducing the way he talked about how insane it was. I mean, 70mm isn’t dead. Sure, it’s not used as much anymore, but pretty fucking far from dead. Christopher Nolan is known for using 70mm in his films (never fully shot in 70mm, but parts are) and Paul Thomas Anderson shot The Master in 70mm (actually 65 but basically the same thing) and that’s just a couple of examples. Trust me, Tarantino’s choice wasn’t groundbreaking. It was cool and the film looks nice, but nothing to masturbate to.
Anyway, the cinematography is nice, nothing fantastic (surprisingly enough, Tarantino doesn’t have a visual style, which is odd considering he’s one of the most stylized directors), but very decent. He breaks the 180 degree rule at least once here, but that’s fine, I don’t want to nit-pick, just something I noticed. I kinda like the idea of shooting with 70mm and then have 95% of the film be in this small cabin, but I’m not completely sure does that work. It has “epic” landscape shots, but they were fairly blah in my book. RedLetterMedia brought up The Master in their review and Mike said that “the whole film takes place in a church basement”, which was a funny line, but The Master has a lot more epic, beautiful shots than The Hateful Eight does. In my opinion, The Master uses the format a lot better than Hateful Eight. But they are two completely different films. I do love the set design here, the cabin, while fairly small, is just so detailed and the 70mm shows so much I just wanted to pause the film and look at every little thing object there.
The story is very strong, like you would expect. Though I have a lot of problems with it, I will say I enjoyed the ride for the most part. It was a lot of fun trying to guess who was the culprit and all that. Even when it kinda fucks up with the flashback stuff, I actually really liked the flashback sequence. I did find the first 40 or so minutes to be almost un-bearably long and fucking tedious, but after they get to the cabin, it gets better. Tarantino kinda sold this movie as an Agatha Christie style western, and it kinda is, but no where near as wonderful written as Christie’s works. However, the mystery is interesting and Tarantino does know how to build a story. So good job.
One of the biggest flaws (in my opinion) was the lack of suspense. In Inglorious Basterds, the bar scene is no doubt the most suspenseful scene Tarantino has every filmed (in my mind, the best scene he has ever filmed). It’s suspenseful because we have no idea what’s going to happen. There’s so many fake-outs, so many points where everyone can die, but it doesn’t happen, Tarantino holds the scene, letting the characters continue their discussion. Even when you know for certain shit’s gonna happen, we don’t know when exactly. It’s classic Sergio Leone style suspension, and it works amazing. There isn’t a scene like that in here. Most of the time when he was going for scenes like that, I knew what was going to happen. When Jackson shows the Lincoln letter for the first time, how many of you guessed Leigh was going to spit on it? That was just way too screenwriting 101, pretty amateurish. Or when Jackson was telling the story about Dern’s son, again, pretty fucking obvious what he was trying to do. Also that monologue was pretty great until the black cock thing which was annoyingly terrible. But, I just couldn’t feel any suspense here, even though you don’t know what’s gonna happen or when, there was just a bit too much information in every scene which to me destroyed the suspense. Like the flashback moment, you know it’s gonna happen and the “when” doesn’t matter.
Also, I hate to say this, the violence. Okay, before you consider me a total prude, I don’t mind his violence at all. In Django, which is a pretty fucking violent film, I loved the violence, because that was the punchline. Django in general is a very tongue-in-cheek film where violence is played off as silly and over-the-top. The Hateful Eight has comedy as well, in typical Tarantino fashion, but it’s not where near as “funny” as Django. In fact, most of the film is so straight and serious, whenever a “joke” comes, it’s not only distracting but took me out of the film. I got that the Jackson’s monologue to Dern was a joke, but a dick joke? Really Tarantino? And I get it, the violence is meant to be over-the-top because it’s Tarantino’s trademark. But The Who doesn’t smash their instruments on stage when they play Behind Blue Eyes, you get what I’m saying? There’s a time and place for his type of violence. And in my opinion, this film doesn’t need it. Since the violence is just so ridiculous here, so gory and gruesome, it took me out of the film, it killed any kind of suspense, the little there was. When Tarantino indulges on the blood and guts that much, it’s hard to take the whole mystery seriously.
And last problem I had was the first 40 minutes were kinda tedious. Actually really tedious. Do we have to see Jackson slowly putting his revolvers on the ground and slowly walk towards Russel? Do you have to start the film with a slow zoom-out of Jesus and then don’t give a pay off? Just couple things like that kinda annoyed me.
I still recommend this film, despite it’s flaws, it’s an entertaining film and a somewhat unique film in his filmography. The Hateful Eight gets a Hateful 7/10 from me.