18 – 2015 – 167mins
L0V3 1T 0R H8 IT?
I will openly confess that, although I have watched all of his films, I’m not a huge Quentin Tarantino fan. I also actively dislike the “Western” genre. Controversial opinions, no doubt, but honest ones. So it’s fair to say that I was less than concerned when it transpired that due to a contractual breakdown, Cineworld (for which I own an Unlimited Card) would not be showing bum-numbing epic The Hateful Eight at any of their cinemas.
Nevertheless, a weekend visit to Norwich prompted a cinema trip, and my friend was – bizarrely – less than keen on a repeat viewing of The Force Awakens (madness!!), so I warily obliged to give QT’s latest a go at his local Odeon.
That’s right, I was paying to see a film I legitimately expected I would hate… Maybe I was glutton for punishment? In truth, I was just hoping to be proved wrong and have my eyes opened. Meanwhile, my mate – who watched a total of THREE Westerns that day! – was excited and optimistic for what he hoped would be another classic adult thrill-ride of witty dialogue and stylish direction from an auteur who never shies away from pulling punches.
A contracted three hours of lengthy character natter, tense exchanges at gun point, misogynistic behaviour and profuse racism (I’m not doing a very good job of selling this, am I?!), we exited the screen and exchanged verdicts… Surprisingly, my friend was less than impressed, caring little for the unlikeable ensemble of “hateful” personalities and cringing at their less-than-moral traits. He openly condemned it as his least favourite of Tarantino’s eight film cannon.
As for me, the QT-ambivalent, Western-avoider? I had an absolute blast!
Yes, I will confess that the film is way too long. Some of the character-defining filler could easily have been given the chop and in no way effected the simple mystery plot, which sees eight less-than-noble strangers holed up in a roadside inn as a blizzard rages around them, their agendas and identities slowly revealed as time ticks by and the body count rises. But the snowstorm-savaged mountainous Wyoming locale and superb Ennio Morricone score (which has rightfully just won a Golden Globe) lent even the drawn out opening titles pitch-perfect ambience.
But what really sold the film to me was the performances. Yes, these are horrible people who do unforgivable things to each other – Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), in particular, is treated like a ragdoll by John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell), which is made only slightly less distasteful owing to the fact she is a murderer on her way to the noose – and to be trapped in confined surroundings with such lowlifes would be utter hell, but the top-notch cast embody these OTT renegades with unrestrained zeal.
Samuel L. Jackson clearly has a hoot as bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren, his every line delivered with sparky, unrestrained confidence, while Tim Roth steals the show as bubbly English oddball Oswaldo Mobray (what a name!), who radiates eccentricity and had me finding it hard not to grin every time he opened his mouth.
I appreciate The Hateful Eight will not be to everyone’s taste. Owing to its setting just after the American Civil War, the “N” word is thrown about worryingly casually, while in spite of loooong periods of talky inactive, there are flashes of grotesque violence and profuse splashes of claret which will make even the toughest constitutions quiver. I can fully appreciate why this has not been as universally accepted as some of Tarantino’s most beloved films, but for a three hour Western to win me over, it must be doing SOMETHING right!!
So thank you to my mate, who I’m glad persuaded me to give this film a chance, because if he hadn’t, I would never have bothered to see it on the big screen, and I’m not sure if the cinematography or score would have looked or sounded anywhere near as majestic on DVD. I’m just sorry he didn’t enjoy it as much as I did.