When it comes to Quentin Tarantino, fairly or unfairly we always expect the best of the best from him such as we have never seen it before. This is despite the difficulty of anyone being able to continue to top the last project in a career that has been littered with high impact successes and major pop culture wins. Nevertheless, be it endearing us to criminals or diving unapologetically into over the top bloody race war skirmishes in the midst of an all too real climate of extreme international and domestic racial and religious volatility, we expect Tarantino to do it and do it well in high visual style with a comedic kick to boot. In keeping with this unspoken demand, THE HATEFUL EIGHT delivers in spades in all the essential territories and then some. As Tarantino’s eighth signature “balls to the wall” cinematic masterwork, THE HATEFUL EIGHT is as impressive as it is unique and iconic – largely due to the weighty subject matter that it tackles underneath all of the graphically beautiful gore. Whether Tarantino actually meant to be deep with regards to what his characters are experiencing and why in THE HATEFUL EIGHT or whether he is simply staying true to his usual mantra of taking his characters to the edge in the fastest and most indelicate way possible, we simply don’t care. The overall effect of the movie as a whole is so good that you just can't be bothered about anything but what will happen next. It’s only later once we’ve seen the movie in it's entirety that these questions arrive, making us want to take another good hard look. This rare quality makes this film truly something to get excited about as an endeavor with some historical legs.
For those who want to know a little more about what they are getting into before they decide to plunk down that coveted Xmas money when it opens on December 25, 2015 in 70mm and nationwide on Jan 8, 2015, THE HATEFUL EIGHT is an ode to the classic movie western. Shot old school in 70 millimeter and being projected as such in an ambitious US tour, THE HATEFUL EIGHT is set in the tumultuous years after the American Civil War. In the topsy turvy manner that Tarantino has made famous again and again, the genre has been deftly put on its head as it gives it’s most concentrated attention to those who are usually invisible in these time honored tales – namely a black man, a poor white man and a woman who is under no compulsion to make herself eye candy for anyone or anything. In a stroke that makes THE HATEFUL EIGHT an unexpected treatise on the travails of the disenfranchised in a newly “free and equal” America – Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins and Jennifer Jason Leigh lap up screen time respectively as a black bounty hunter who never sees a day that he isn’t called the n word, a poor white trash outlaw trying to go legit as a would be but much maligned future sheriff and a very rough female prisoner being hauled cross country to be hanged. All three actors are gorgeously complex and nothing short of spectacular in their portrayals of very difficult characters that at turns draw us in and spit us out with ferocity. All three characters perform some truly gritty and grotesque acts of self-preservation, open aggression and more. Due to the authenticity of these characters as well as the accompanying work of an inspired whip smart cast performing on all cylinders, as an audience we find ourselves begrudgingly endorsing, or at the very least understanding just about everything bad act done as what had to be done given the circumstances - no matter how gruesome.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT has a lot of violence in it, but it is flawlessly justified with precision. Tarantino breaks up this movie into chapters as he did with PULP FICTION and KILL BILL. With a slow layer by layer reveal of the individual stories of each character leading up to their respective end games, the violence builds gradually like it’s own character that finds it’s full definition at the very end for extremely high dramatic effect. Tarantino is at his best here using this device that worked for him so well in the past, yet the result stands refreshingly on it’s own two feet. While PULP FICTION was very attuned to the world that it was made in with the famous odes to McDonald’s burgers and cheese burgers, THE HATEFUL EIGHT makes timely nods to the #blacklivesmatter movement with Samuel Jackson’s Lincoln Letter and the slow reveal of it’s significance in a post civil war world where Jackson’s character makes no bones about his survival as a Black man being directly linked to his ability to disarm all whites by any means necessary. That Tarantino, as a privileged white director doesn’t shy away from allowing Jackson’s character to make this statement is a real testament to Tarantino’s unsparing eye when it comes to making movies about people to whom the worst most random crap can happen to at any given moment just because.
While the success of THE HATEFUL EIGHT has a lot to do with Samuel L. Jackson and Tarantino movie newcomers Walton Goggins and Jennifer Jason Leigh, one other newbie, Mexican star Demian Bichir should be added to the list of gold star standout work with his portrayal of Bob the Mexican. Rumor has it that originally this role was meant to be a French Canadian, but Demian Bichir, know best by American audiences for his work in Showtime series WEEDS gives this role such a star turn that it’s no question why the Bob ended up Mexican versus French.
Visually stunning with no weak performances in the bunch, THE HATEFUL EIGHT is a must see.