Quentin Tarantino was born to make movies. His latest, The Hateful Eight, is another example of how great he truly is and how he was born to make flicks. Sometimes, it happens like that in the make believe business. A master storyteller’s own life is a great story. Tarantino worked at a video rental shop while watching tons of movies and talking up Kung Fu flicks with anybody who would listen. He was a freak of film. Someone who needed it and craved it. Unlike millions of other, Tarantino had a vision. He wanted to make these things. Write and direct. Or nothing else.
Later on, he made a couple of groundbreaking films. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Movies with stunning violence, iconic characters, lots of profanity and extended unbroken takes of dialogue. Lots of talking. Philosophical. Direct. Poignant at times. Tarantino hasn’t shown the ability to hit the bullseye every time(Jackie Brown) but he’s never made a bad movie.
QT’s movies take place in the present day, the 90’s, during World War II or in latest case, after the American Civil War in the late 1800’s. No matter where they happen, it’s a QT joint. His signature touch exists in all of his films. You ask me the goal should be for every director in Hollywood and it’s the recognition an audience has when they see your film. They sit down and immediately know this is a Tarantino film.
The Hateful Eight carries that stamp early on, with the Ennio Morricone score, the Panavision powered opening, and the heavy hitting cast.
Every QT joint has three things:
*Lots of F-Bombs.
*Samuel L. Jackson in a great role that people will quote afterwards.
*Unusual kill scenes.
What’s it about? A group of bounty hunters, prisoners, killers, former soldiers and some of the most overall untrustworthy folks in the world meet in a cabin during a terribly brutal blizzard. Kurt Russell’s bounty hunter is transporting a prisoner, Daisy(Jennifer Jason Leigh) to be hanged. He picks up a fellow bounty hunter/ex-soldier(Jackson) and appointed sheriff(Walter Goggins) along the way. When they get to the cabin, something seems off. Mysterious men(Tim Roth, Demian Bichir, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern) are stuck in this same cabin. There are eight people total. Some people know others. Some do not.
Russell, nicknamed Hangman because he doesn’t kill people that are wanted dead or alive but takes them to hang because “other people have to make money too”, thinks they are there to stop Daisy from hanging. Jackson’s drifter is the opposite. He kills(a lot) but is civilized about it. It’s a treat to see the actor have another good time in a QT film. Jackson works a lot, too much if you ask me, and three of every four films he makes end up sucking. However, in Tarantino’s hands speaking a hypnotic brand of dialogue, Jackson shines like a brand new penny. The Jackson-Tarantino film relationship may not be as potent as Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese, but five films in there hasn’t been a less than stellar performance.
Russell had one of his best roles in the last decade with Tarantino, playing Stunt Man Mike in Death Proof. Here, his ruthlessly violent John Ruth is a fair measure of good, bad and ugly. He isn’t the most evil but when he slugs Leigh’s Daisy a few times too many, it’s hard to stay sided with him. Goggins, a celebrated TV performer, also makes himself at home in Tarantino’s world here. He always plays men who are hard to trust yet impossible to take your eyes off him as he works. These three easily fare the best of the celebrated cast, and viewers won’t soon forget another legendary Jackson speech right around the 90 minute mark that sets off the furious action.
That’s right, folks, H8 is talky. Very talky. All Tarantino films involve extended dialogue scenes, verbal foreplay before the subplots and main plot are submerged together and people die. Full of characters who are either despicable or extra deadly or capable of the wrong things, it doesn’t take long before bad things happen. Oh, and Channing Tatum shows up and makes a brilliant entrance.
For my money, Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained had great moments but were both uneven films. They weren’t complete pleasures. They weren’t the usual QT masterpiece(Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill 2 setting that table). Far from average but a half mile short of greatness, those two films didn’t come close to the high mark that Hateful Eight achieves in one setting, eight main characters and a simple story line. No World War II villains needed. No slavery aided push. Just a group of gunslingers.
If you are a QT fan, you will love this film. It has all the trimmings one would expect in a Tarantino turkey. No one writes dialogue like this man. It’s realistic while carrying a graphic novel flair for the dramatic. The actors, handpicked gems like Madsen, all eat up the material like pros. Madsen is a unique breed of actor. He’s made over 245 films in his career but every time he hooks up with Quentin, a great character is formed. His Joe Cage is no different. Don’t trust him!
If you are not a QT fan, then this will shock you and ultimately, seduce you. If you appreciate original stories with no superheroes involved and crave an unsettling feel to a movie, Hateful Eight is your best dish available. I had a lot of fun with it and would watch the two hour and 47 minute film again. Once again, it’s a different kind of film and not for everybody. If QT made films for everybody, they’d be called The Hunger Games(come to think of it, I’d love to see him direct the prequels).
Is The Hateful Eight Tarantino’s best? Right now, it is not. Pulp Fiction is still his most assured, shocking, most funny and hypnotic slice of pie. This latest wild affair does come pretty close. Make a pot of coffee and bring it to the movie theater.