J A Garrett

Curiously nerdy posts.

Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight… aka 9 angry Cowboys walk into a bar.

Last night, after a long vacation spent with family in Colorado, my wife and I settled in for a long weekend of doing nothing. That nothing was quickly quashed, though, when I checked the internet and realized that somehow, Quentin Taratino’s newest movie, The Hateful Eight, had flown in under my radar. I asked my wife if she wanted to come with, and, despite not being much for movies, she quickly said yes.

You had me at Kurt Russell.

I’ve enjoyed all of Tarantino’s movies that I’ve seen (I’ve seen them all, with the exceptions of Jackie Brown and Death Proof). Like a lot of people, I’ve just come to associate his name with quality, in a weird, retro-indie sort of way. So naturally, I rolled into the theater with only a cursory glance at Rotten Tomatoes before I left. I remembered reading about how badly Tarantino wanted to make this film, and the drama that followed when the script leaked online. I never read it – I just assumed, given his pedigree, that it must have been a killer script.

Was it, though?

What I liked:

The concept. I went in expecting a bloody western, and I got exactly that. But how the movie got to that point was completely unexpected. We’ve had epic journeys in the name of justice and vengeance in Kill Bill and Django Unchained. We’ve had diverse casts with something to show in each character in Inglourious Basterds and Pulp Fiction. We’ve had snappy dialogue from Reservoir Dogs and… well, all of them.

But this is a completely different style. This movie reminded me a lot of an old school murder mystery you’d see at a theater, with or without a dinner attached to it. To compare it to an actual movie, the first that came to mind was 12 Angry Men. Both movies:

  1. Centered around the fate of one particular character that was in danger of execution,
  2. Took place in one room for the majority of the movie,
  3. Build from a plotline of a diverse group of characters getting to know each other, and rely heavily on dialogue interactions.

Done well, and correctly, this can make for a really cool kind of movie. I respected that.

The actors. A lot of familiar faces appear here. Sam Jackson, Tim Roth, Kurt “Snake Plisken” Russell, Michael Madsen… all actors who’ve appeared in multiple Tarantino movies before. And I like all of them, even though Tim Roth’s character felt like it was written for Christoph Waltz at times. I really loved Kurt Russell as “The Hangman”, in particular. He was the perfect blend of bombastic cowboy and politically incorrect mountain man. From the moment he comes on screen, he evokes that feeling of a ruthless but fair bounty hunter. Ouch at some of those elbows, though.

But I enjoyed Walton Goggins the most. In my opinion, if you’re looking for a great actor who also has a genuine southern accent, you really can’t do better than him right now. I’ve been a fan of him since The Shield, and his character pretty much stole the show for me.

That being said, every single actor and actress in this movie performed well. No weaknesses, which admittedly isn’t hard to do for such a small cast.

What I didn’t like:

It’s long. Really, really, really long. I don’t mind long movies. Really, I don’t. All of The Lord of the Rings movies, for instance, exceed three hours, and are works of art. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one of the greatest films of all time, and it’s easily as long as this movie. Inglorious Basterds is about as long as this movie, and even so, it still felt like it flew by. It’s not so much about how long a movie is, in reality… it’s about how long it feels.

One of my favorite and most unscientific ways to measure my enjoyment of a movie is how many times I check the time on my watch. During The Force Awakens, for instance, I didn’t check even once.* For this movie, I checked about a dozen times.

*I haven’t reviewed this movie because, let’s face it, everyone is going to see it, and most of what I want to talk about is kind of spoilerish, so I figured I’d give it a touch more time. It was a flawed, but highly enjoyable movie.

In contrast, this movie felt like it was five hours long. Why? The answer’s pretty simple, when you think about it. There simply isn’t enough story in this movie to justify the run time. I’m sure there are some hardcore fans out there that will probably say “Oh, you didn’t really get the point of the movie” or “You’re not appreciating the subtle plot points”. I can readily assure you that I do understand what the movie was doing. I get the subplot of racial tension between Major Warren and Sheriff Mannix, and how circumstances force them to find common ground. I get the pseudo-murder mystery plotline (although really, let’s be honest, you can see it coming a mile away). The problem is that there simply isn’t enough meat to these plot points to keep it interesting for almost three hours. It doesn’t matter how good the dialogue is when the characters have to talk about the same things repeatedly. I read where the original cut was even longer AND had an intermission attached… and I just wonder who thought that was a good idea in the first place.

Simply put, this movie is bloated. If it were an hour and a half to two hours, it would be a great movie. Possibly even one of the best Tarantino movies. But as is, I came away wishing that he had an editor that was willing to stand up to him and tell him to trim the fat. Not that this is particularly uncommon… there are many authors out there who have the same problem.

The cartoon violence. I mentioned earlier that I was looking for a violent western, and I got it. And it’s true. This movie attempts a classic blueprint of building tension for a long time, and then paying it off with a lot of action. And for the most part, it succeeds in that.

The problem is, it goes from realistic to cartoonish very, very quickly. Heads start exploding right and left. I understand the big caliber guns from the old west can indeed make heads explode, but it just started to feel like a comedian smashing watermelons for a crowd after a while. And if I could just nitpick for a second…

It felt like any time a character got shot anywhere but their head, they could survive indefinitely, and talk normally, even without any medical attention at all. I understand that a person can live for a few days after being shot in the stomach (and the dialogue points this out, in case the audience didn’t already know), but being shot in the unmentionables? I’m not sure it would take long to bleed out from that, let alone be able to pick up another human being after that point.

It just felt like gunshots either did critical damage, or next to no damage at all. It was distracting.

I mean, it IS Sam Jackson… but still.

 

The verdict:

The Hateful Eight is the worst Tarantino movie, in my opinion. It’s still better than a lot of movies out there, but to me, it was a colossal disappointment. It had a few bright spots, but nothing that could overcome the sheer amount of bloated runtime and hamster wheel dialogue.

I don’t think I’m going to persuade any hardcore cinophiles to not watch it with this review, but just regard this as more of a warning… be ready for a marathon that may or may not feel satisfying at the end.

**.

 

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