I’m speechless. Not for all the wrong reasons, but not for the right reasons either. I just don’t know where to begin – and apparently, Tarantino didn’t either, considering The Hateful Eight didn’t seem to start until I’d been sat there an hour and a half. Don’t get me wrong, I am a reasonably loyal Tarantino fan – I don’t think he’s amazing, but I do greatly enjoy most of his films – but this just felt like a shade of his former cinematic excellence. Inglorious Basterds is his masterpiece, in my opinion, closely followed by on-a-par Reservoir Dogs and Django Unchained, while the others sit pretty equally in my estimations.
So you’d think The Hateful Eight, which basically uses the same basic plot as Reservoir Dogs combined with the racial tension and long run-time of Django, I’d really enjoy this film. But it had almost none of the gripping dialogue that sustained my attention during the longer scenes of the aforementioned films, and bordered on plain dull for the first hour. It’s such a shame, because the latter half of the film almost saved it. Despite this, the cinematography is stunning, and Samuel L. Jackson’s ‘Lincoln Letter’ provides a great backdrop from which the rest of the film builds. Kurt Russell’s ‘the Hangman’ also has an intriguing backstory, and the two, with Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy Domergue, provide just enough intrigue to retain your attention until it really gets going.
"because Tarantino is Tarantino, Tarantino can do what Tarantino wants"
Moving on to the second half, a bit more of the old Tarantino – shameless, crass gore, a glorious speech fuelled by racial tensions from Samuel L. Jackson, and storytelling with a bit of intricacy – shines through. The few twists and turns aren’t predictable, and Jackson’s presence in particular creates the tension Tarantino is renowned for. But it’s still not quite enough. The plot isn’t too convincing, and a few of the characters are simply redundant; the film could’ve easily managed without one or two of them. I don’t wish to condemn the terrific performances of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson, but they all just felt like diluted versions of characters we’ve seen before. For me, The Hateful Eight served as a reminder that because Tarantino is Tarantino, Tarantino can do what Tarantino wants and whether it’s objectively shit or objectively excellent, it sells. There aren’t many other directors we’d sit through an hour and a half of straight-up boring and un-engaging dialogue just to see what happens. And then another hour and a half of what alone, would be a decent film, but not a great film for any other than die-hard Tarantino fans. I guess I wanted something new, and I was bitterly disappointed – so if that’s what you’re after, steer clear.
More like this: Reservoir Dogs (1991)