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Written by / 12/30/2015 / No comments / , , , , , , , , ,

QUENTIN TARANTINO'S WESTERN ENSEMBLE 'THE HATEFUL EIGHT'

year: 2015 cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Walt Goggins, Jennifer Jason Leight director: Quentin Tarantino
Will attempt not to spoil too much about this epic yet contained and intentionally claustrophobic Western by Quentin Tarantino, but that's after having to disclose it's only a Western in the Civil War time period, rural-rough location, dramatic score, and dusty, cut-throat characters. THE HATEFUL EIGHT is really a Mystery, and for the most part, could have been set in any century involving an eclectic roomful of people, and, as already known/shown in the Samuel L. Jackson-led expository trailers, somebody's not who they're supposed to be.

Kurt & Jennifer
The first act overrides Tarantino's last venture simply by looking and feeling like we're really outdoors as opposed to a contrived exterior set, which DJANGO UNCHAINED, especially during the sequence following the opening credits, really seemed like. With gorgeous wide shots of snowy mountainous regions and a soundtrack by none other than Spaghetti Western guru Ennio Morricone, HATEFUL sounds like the real thing while you can genuinely feel the freezing cold as a stagecoach full of our central characters, including Kurt Russell's fitfully nicknamed bounty hunter The Hangman is bringing Jennifer Jason Leigh's grotesque white trash Wanted killer, with more bruises than brains, to the town of Red Rock... alive, not dead... while semi comic-relief Walt Goggins plays a supposedly future sheriff and last but not least, Sam Jackson, as Major Marquis Warren, explains what's up, both on the road and within our central location where 95% of the picture takes place: a barroom/way-station where no one can leave to Red Rock (a sort of geographical McGuffin) since there's a big bad blizzard raging outside.

Although Tarantino has publicly denounced John Ford as any kind of Western Genre influence, leaning more on Sam Peckinpah and of course, Sergio Leone, some of the best and most effective character-developing dialogue takes place inside the vehicle itself, and is reminiscent of what's arguably Ford's best film, STAGECOACH, that catapulted John Wayne's career. And if anyone on board takes the Alpha Male Wayne role it's Russell's no-nonsense John Ruth who, during this three-hour plus cinematic stage play, maintains the best verbal momentum throughout. His anti-chemistry/reluctant-partnership is strongest with Jackson while there should have been more palpable angst towards Leigh's Daisy Domergue – whom he's literally, annoyingly chained to. Yet both seem as if they're in completely different movies, and Russell's is much better... if only he captured anyone else but Leigh, an actress that, despite being otherwise talented, is downright embarrassingly campy here.  

Neat Poster Artwork
Meanwhile, putting the forgettable Ennio soundtrack aside, EIGHT isn't Leone-influenced but more an overlong hybrid of RESERVOIR DOGS, which co-starred two wasted HATEFUL characters Michael Madsen and Tim Roth (the latter doing a pallid Christoph Waltz imitation)... which was Tarantino's first film; set inside a warehouse with a group of crooks while one holds a secret that can change everything... and Agatha Christie...

And why it would be nearly impossible to sit through this a second time – EIGHT is a bonafide whodunit, especially during the third and final act where the tables twist and turn so much, you'll wonder if all the previous dialogue and dialogue-driven, camera-wielding suspense was effectively good, bad or ugly since, like any Mystery-based vehicle, the end result makes everything else matter... and ultimately, in this case, nothing and no one matters much at all.

One Non Blonde
RATING: **
SPOILERS AND TRIVIA: In the second paragraph, the Alfred Hitchcock derived term McGuffin is parenthetically used to describe the town of Red Rock, which can refer to any plot-device that means everything to the characters and nothing to the audience. Meanwhile, writer/director Quentin Tarantino probably felt Morgan Freeman was overused, so he himself provides the narration, and a pretty dull one at that...

The film is divided by white words against black backdrop chapters, and some are extremely short while others, especially the third, is so long you'll forget the significance of using these visual breaks at all. As in DJANGO UNCHAINED, Lee Horsley, the star of the 80's MAGNUM-mustache TV doppelganger MATT HOUSTON and the theatrical fantasy exploitation THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER, makes another blink-or-miss cameo. Bruce Dern has a supposedly important role but grows moss throughout; this will hardly keep his NEBRASKA nomination rolling into further comeback glory. And for the ladies waiting and waiting for Channing Tatum to appear, when he does it's very reminiscent of how Brad Pitt's INGLORIOUS BASTERD showed his face after hiding out, basically forgotten in his own film during a dragging barroom scene. But as far as Tatum's entrance, his ultra-important rise to the occasion is what Truman Capote bitched about in the mystery spoof MURDER BY DEATH... a last-minute, brand new, suddenly-introduced character who means the world at the 11th hour. And while being much different than DJANGO, this, in a more subtle manner, sustains the revenge-driven theme on slavery in a much too obvious, forced and familiar fashion. We know, Quentin, you care... but move on!
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