The Hateful Eight (dir. Quentin Tarantino, 2015) – A blizzard forces bounty hunter John Ruth and his prisoner Daisy Domergue to seek refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, where its inhabitants harbour unseen intentions.
Verbose, ruthless and amusing, The Hateful Eight is unapologetically Tarantino-esque and charmingly so.
In the harsh winters of Wyoming, John Ruth the Hangman (Kurt Russell) stays committed to his mission: to lead his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the noose at Red Rock for murder.
An unexpected blizzard forces them to reroute as they trudge on towards warm shelter. Under the roof of Minnie’s Haberdashery seats a band of nefarious strangers with a larger ploy at hand, driven by hate as promised by the title in bold.
The Hateful Eight marks Quentin Tarantino’s 8 1/2 (My Best Friend’s Birthday inclusive) and his second western of a planned trilogy. Three years after Django Unchained and thankfully despite the script leak controversy, Tarantino slips back comfortably into familiar territory.
The long-awaited film leaps right into his signature lengthy dialogues, which some may fault for its shambling gait. Yet his bold indulgence in words proves rewarding. Such verbosity continually enthrals us, layering a simple story with plenty of intrigue. A protracted run-time of over 160 minutes never feels tedious as the motley crew spews sharp lines, venturing into the complexities of justice and post-Civil War race relations.
A brilliant ensemble cast adds perfect cadence to their distinct roles. Jennifer Jason Leigh fascinates with her compelling act of ambiguity, drawing sympathy and antipathy in equal turns. Amongst all, Tarantino’s veteran collaborator Samuel L. Jackson stands out as the shrewd Major Warren, armed with careful diction well suited for his manipulative and darkly amusing anecdotes.
Mistrust in the gang spells tension, reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs only in the Wild West. Yet the ugliness of the miscreants has something much darker in the slow brew.
For one, sudden lashes of violence tell of much viler cruelty – be it in a woman repeatedly pummelled by the men, Major Warren’s recount of his graphic revenge, or the slaughter of the innocent in the wrong place at the wrong time. The brutality almost feels overboard at times, but necessarily revelatory of the eight’s malice that deserves a fate far worse.
As John Ruth proclaims a rat in cahoots with his prisoner, Daisy sneaks a crooked smile in her chains and quiet confidence, rousing suspicion in every man and their actions around her. Where they truly stand is hard to gauge, and each minute detail becomes a clue to their motivations and eventual destiny.
The air grows heavier and grim with claustrophobic pressure, and the pace begins to pick up into a gallop. Post-intermission, an introduction of a fatal whodunit assures the much anticipated series of unfortunate events. With arguably no real protagonists, Tarantino chooses to treat all his characters with equal contempt, leaving no one safe in the wild carnage.
What follows is as we would expect from the scribe – characteristically violent and relentlessly mad. Surprises spring from beneath the hatch, accompanied by the charming dark humour of the usual Tarantino fare. Warm blood flows in the unforgiving wintry cold as the final act of vengeance unleashes, with Ennio Morricone’s beautiful original score soaring towards the grand, red finale.