Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Movie Review: The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino's long, slow Western is a surprising misfire.

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The Hateful Eight
The Weinstein Company

For its first half, The Hateful Eight seems like Quentin Tarantino's worst movie, talky and formless, even—dare it be said—boring. Then there's a plot flip, and you think: Okay, here we go. But then it goes on seeming like Tarantino's worst movie, collapsing at the end of three bloody hours in a wheeze of exhaustion.

Much has been made of Tarantino's decision to shoot the movie in Ultra Panavision 70, a wide-screen format last employed nearly 50 years ago on a Charlton Heston epic called Khartoum. This nerdish determination required the Weinstein Company to scour the country for surviving 70mm projectors, painstakingly restore them, and train projectionists to operate them for a limited "roadshow" release in a hundred theaters nationwide. (The movie will be re-released in a regular 35mm version on New Year's Day.)

This seems like lot of trouble (and mad expense) to go to for a movie that's largely set in one room. But it does pay off, to an extent, in deeply detailed images; and cinematographer Robert Richardson, shooting his fifth Tarantino film, produces some grand panoramas in the picture's long opening passage, which begins with a stagecoach making its way—very slowly—through a snowy mountain pass in post-Civil War Wyoming.

Inside the stagecoach are a bounty hunter named John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), whom he's transporting to the town of Red Rock to be hanged. With a blizzard moving in, the stagecoach is flagged down by two more characters. One is Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a former Union soldier who's now a bounty hunter himself. (This being a Tarantino movie, Daisy greets Warren with the words "Howdy, nigger.") The other new passenger is Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a Confederate loyalist who's also on his way to Red Rock, to become the town's new sheriff.

There's a lot of talking as the stagecoach rattles along, not all of it as masterfully crafted as we've come to expect from Tarantino, who seems to have gotten carried away by his reputation in this department. The dialogue is delivered with requisite gusto by Russell (sporting a moustache the size of a stuffed weasel) and the characteristically intense Jackson. But much of the humor, here and throughout the picture, is mined from continual abuse of the trash-talking Daisy: John Ruth smashes an elbow into her face ("That means shut up") and Warren punches her in the head so hard she goes flying half out of the stagecoach door. She's increasingly bloodied, but remains unbowed, and it must be said that Leigh appears to be having a lot of fun with the role.

The gab marathon abates for a bit when the stagecoach pulls in at a trailside outpost called Minnie's Haberdashery (a cute name, but pointless). Waiting inside are four more characters. One, Oswaldo Mobray, says he's on his way to Red Rock to become the town's new hangman. (He's played by Tim Roth, whose giddy diction suggests either a parody of fellow Tarantino regular Christoph Waltz or a tribute to the late Terry-Thomas; maybe both.) The others are murmuring cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen, doing Bruce Willis), a Mexican called Señor Bob (Demian Bichir), and an old Confederate general named Smithers (Bruce Dern), who glowers at Warren and—this being a Tarantino movie—says, "I don't know that nigger, but I know he's a nigger, and that's all I need to know."

Tarantino is once again instructing us about race hatred and systemic injustice. (Jackson has an eloquent moment when he says, "You got no idea what it's like bein' a black man facin' down America.") We get the message, and while he continues giving it to us, we drift into contemplation of the movie's defects—its cluttered cast and sloggy pace, and the atmosphere of airless enclosure that often makes it feel like a filmed stage play. 

The rest of the story unfolds in Minnie's main room. (Despite the building's unimposing exterior, it's more spacious than anyone but Sergio Leone might expect.) The characters stand around and talk. They sit around a table eating stew and talking some more. There's a lot of business with a broken door and a letter from Abraham Lincoln, and there's a flashback to a scene of sexual violence that's so misconceived you figure Tarantino must no longer be accepting outside advice. The absence of proprietor Minnie is our first indication that something's not right at this remote location, and when the plot suddenly shifts in a new direction, Tarantino lets the blood begin to gush pretty much as you'd expect.

The movie has been ill-omened from the start. A first draft of Tarantino's script leaked online last year, and just days ago the completed film—ripped from a DVD screener of the sort sent out to Academy voters—popped up on Internet torrent sites. On top of that, there's still PR blowback from the October police-violence protest in which the director took such a vocal part. All of this would be a drag if The Hateful Eight were a work of dazzling style and vision—if it were prime Tarantino. But it's not.

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  1. Good grief. 168 minutes. I won’t waste my money and time in a theater for this, but I may waste a Netflix slot for it, and be prepared to eject if I start yawning too much. But I will give QT the benefit of the doubt for now. It doesn’t sound particularly appealing; 8 people in one room for almost three hours?

    1. This sounds like yet another netflix movie I would doze off in the middle of, even with the tv speaker on.

    2. 8 people in one room for almost three hours?

      Sounds like “My Dinner Party with Andre”

      1. Or “Das Boot”. But more boring.

  2. The dialogue is out of place for the setting. The entire movie boils down to race. It really is his most lackluster movie.

    1. Everything’s about race. Haven’t you been to college?

    2. “The entire movie boils down to race”

      This is not accurate at all. The movie doesn’t boil down to anything much in particular.

      The plot is also incredibly stupid in retrospect, even by lax standards. The only parts that hold up are the beginning and the last 5-10 minutes.

      1. The plot is also incredibly stupid, even by Tarantino standards.

        …there, fixed it.

  3. Lemme guess. You spend three hours waiting for all the hateful characters to do each other in.

  4. I love movies where Jennifer Jason Leigh gets abused, mutilated, violated, tortured or dispatched in some gruesome fashion. She’s my favorite actress too. This sounds like a must see.

    1. Loved her since Fast Times… Great in Hudsucker Proxy… I was going to see this this weekend, mainly due to the Russell, Leigh, Tarrantino trifecta. Sounds like a boring, slow, worse film than From Dusk ‘Til Dawn-Tarrentino masturbating to visions of his own grandeur. Jackson in a Tarrentino is as dull as Depp in a Burton film. Madsen? Talk about throwing a bone to a washed up actor. I thought Django was a white guilt-riddled mess too. Quinton needs to get back to gangsters, the strongest characters in his wheelhouse.

      1. Yeah. Harvey Keitel or Jason Stranthon.

      2. If you want to see another great movie from Tarantino he will need to go back to ripping off entire story lines, visual concepts, & dialogues, AND not mucking them up too much.

    2. Kind of, but not fully. Light spoiler ahead.

      She’s an incredibly annoying character who gets beat a lot, but she’s not sympathetic.

      1. She spends the last half looking and behaving like a deranged honest-to-god banshee.

  5. This critic and review were paid for by the criminal police unions. Have a nice day.

    1. Yes. Because reason columnists are well known for their love of cops and unions.

      1. It’s really hard to get an idea of Kurt Loder’s politics, though.

        When you see him on a talk show, basically he gives 1 word answers to questions from the host.

        1. I can’t imagine he writes at Reason because they pay so well.

  6. Overdone dialog interrupted by overdone violence. I.E. another Tarantino film.
    Jennifer Jason Leigh’s provocative coy reactions to her abuse the only redeeming thing about the movie.

  7. Django wasn’t good, but this movie was a disaster. The dialogue was hokey, and the delivery was uniformly atrocious (JJL was as awful as everyone else, regardless of how much fun she appeared to be having). I’m sure everyone had a blast on set, but it comes across as though a bunch of talented people came together to make a movie then got really hammered and made something about a tenth as clever as they thought it would be. Like the awful KKK and Australian scenes in Django, there are significant portions of this movie that are downright M. Night-ish in their preening badness, and apparently there was no one there to tell Tarantino that it just didn’t work and force him to shelve a screenplay that was sub-par even before it was saddled with terrible direction of good actors.

  8. guess i’ll skip it. Loved RD, Pulp Fict, Kill Bill 1-2, enjoyed most of jackie brown and even a few minutes of dusk til dawn

  9. In fact SUCKS doesn’t do this POS justice. BORING doesn’t begin to describe the ennui. WASTEFUL is a euphemism for the use of talent when considering the all star cast. HUBRIS doesn’t expand enough to contain Tarantino’s egotistic debauchery.

    After the opening scene mentioned above it all goes downhill.

  10. Hmmm well I liked it. I thought the slow build up to character comeuppance was satisfying. I enjoyed the general theme that war really sucks and that common ground can still be found even among enemies. Of course I didn’t pay for it and I spent the whole movie noodling on guitar as well so maybe if I had saw it in the theater I might not have been nearly so charitable.

    1. I was feeling very alone until your comment, Sukkoi. Thank you!

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