The Hateful Eight
 
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The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarentino’s latest homage mashup hits a lot of familiar notes, but where’s the fun?

Much has been made of the filmmaker’s reverential use of 70 mm projection (which does look beautiful), the much-needed intermission and weirdly hollow overture. These conceits are sentimental and kind of retro-nice. But that’s where the nice ends. This bloodily profane western, with shades of Sergio Leone, John Carpenter and even Agatha Christie along the way, doesn’t, when all is said (and there’s a lot said) and done, have a whole lot to say, making it feel bloated and boorish. The zeal that makes even the most violent of Tarentino’s previous work infectious is muted here, leaving us, if not pummeled, at least pretty disappointed.

We begin in a stagecoach, a blizzard setting in. Bounty hunter John Ruth (a mighty mustachioed Kurt Russell) is transporting his fugitive, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to her justice. Two needy travelers, a black former Union soldier turned bounty hunter, and a southern man claiming to be the upcoming town’s next mayor, are taken in. A whole lot of talking goes on, not just introducing the characters, but setting up societal notions of the time. Most of them aren’t too pretty. Taking shelter at a stagecoach stopover, the crew joins four strangers, but the friendly proprietor and her man are nowhere to be found. There’s a whole lot of whistling wind, piling drifts and bodies a droppin as the travelers get stuck in a set scene of hate.

It’s not that there aren’t some yeah-I-get-it tips of the hat to appreciate. And it’s not that the technical and acting aspects of the piece aren’t top notch. Even a purely dramatic, seething drama can be emotionally fulfilling. But this three hour epic wanna be doesn’t trust its inner fury. Tarentino throws a few jokes in at odd moments, a surprisingly airy sense of claustrophobia and allows his game actors a few too many screechy moments. I’ve always loved the signature Tarentino energy, but with this Hateful episode, the bad guys seem to weigh us all down.

 

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