THE HATEFUL EIGHT sure as hell lives up to its title: an angry inner-13-year-old named Quentin got up on the wrong side of some bed, missed the bus, and took it out on the rest of us (with extra helpings of race-baiting and brutal misogyny). For 168 minutes worth—187 if you were faked out into the ‘Roadshow’ cut. Great way to get a first-date to use the intermission as excuse to call the FBI to see if you’re on their psychopath database. Unleashed in 2015–for Christmas, yet.
After the blood-churning but stunning Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino revisited the Western genre, with a game cast, including a couple of his loyal regulars, and amped a publicity wave by having cinematographer Robert Richardson shoot in Ultra Panavision 70mm, not used since the 1966 epic Khartoum.
Wyoming, 1877. Eight strangers shelter in a stagecoach roadstop during a blizzard. Two (Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell) are remorseless bounty hunters. One (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a defiantly nasty prisoner. The others (Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Demian Bicher, Michael Madsen) may not be who they say they are, but whoever they are, none of them are anything close to pleasant. Late in the game they’re joined by another cur (Channing Tatum). A handful of secondary characters are there to be killed off in extra-cruel ways. As are each and every one of the eight. Hooray for Quentinwood!
The Good: (1) effective scoring from Ennio Morricone, (2) briefly, the camera work, (3) the brave—or is it just actor’y masochistic?—work from Jennifer Jason Leigh, and (4) superb line readings from Bruce Dern that bests the others, stuck with mouthfuls of crap.
The Bad: (1) the horrible SCRIPT, in conception and execution; hardly any of it—and this is The Talkiest Western Ever Made—a mile within astute, clever, funny, real, deep or meaningful beyond immediate infliction level (Q.T. insures you get battered by his beloved “n-word” 65 times), (2) for all the hype, 70mm means dick-little when 95% of the story is confined to an interior set, (3) again the script, with acres of needless repetition–was everyone afraid to tell the director that he was talking too g-damn much? that most of the normally keen actors sounded hollow reciting the self-amused, self-reverential, embarrassingly lazy profanity? (4) the sheer length, a crass reworking of stale 30-minute pulp material into three hours of pretend-epic posturing. If the director’s name wasn’t attached to such come-all circle-jerking, the fan-boy gushes over its supposed profundity would have nowhere to hang their drool. *
The Ugly: violence is one thing (we can watch The Wild Bunch wipeout a hundred times and get off on it), but this is just plain Sick for Sick’s Sake. Outside of cheapjack horror trash, has any mainstream actress ever been subjected to as much battery and vile degradation as Leigh endures here? If it’s any consolation (or cause to kick your puppy) the original script was even more sadistic. People in the audience who laughed at this blood-porn need to do something really amusing, like jump in front of a train. And if they ‘think’ Tarantino’s pretentious foul gibberish actually has ‘something to say’ about racism, sexism and violence then they deserve to be fleeced. As the great Eli Wallach laid down in The Magnificent Seven, “If God didn’t want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep.”
The Oscars kowtowed and gave Morricone a statue for his score. This seemed like a weak make-up salute for his five previous nominations, belatedly realizing that perhaps they owed him from five decades back for not recognizing The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (ask ‘Tuco’). Worthy nominations went up for Leigh’s valiant turn as Supporting Actress and Richardson’s fine (if constricted) cinematography.
Critics in the main enthused, but a good 20% discounted the honks from applauding seals and agreed with Yours,Humbly that something reeled in from La-La-Land stunk like stank. Shot in the cold and snow near Telluride, Colorado, with the interior set using refrigeration to keep the ambiance chilled (credit for going the extra mile), it was supposed to cost $44,000,000 but ended up spilling a good $10mil over. Box-office brought it to 51st place for ’15, with a $155,760,000 take, 65% of that in foreign markets. The year’s other western, The Revenant–-rough, harsh and real— kicked its keister.
Supporting Victims who get gruesomely blown apart include James Parks (son of Michael), Dana Gourrier, Zoë Bell and Lee Horsley. Welcome additions to the soundtrack: Leigh’s plaintive rendition of Australian folk song “Jim Jones At Botany Bay”, and end-credits playing of Roy Orbison slaying it with “There Won’t Be Many Coming Home”.
* Save your secret scorn, keyboard gunslingers. We like Tarantino’s brash writing from True Romance and dug his double-duty bravismo from Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, the Kill Bill‘s and Django Unchained, but draw a yellow line in the snow over this mean-spirited indulgence. Also do not appreciate his whack attack on WW2, Inglorious Basterds, either. Consider me sued.