There’s no sign of Quentin Tarantino stepping outside his comfort zone for his eighth motion picture, “The Hateful Eight”. Instead, this is Tarantino firmly in his wheelhouse, at the height of his powers and gleefully indulging his every cinematic whim.
When bounty hunter John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth (Kurt Russell) is forced to shelter from a blizzard with his latest prisoner in Minnie’s Haberdashery with only fellow Bounty Hunter Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson), the newly appointed Sheriff of Red Rock Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) and a motley crew of other travellers, it’s not long before tension and paranoia begin to divide the group as suspicions rise that one of them is determined to free Ruth’s prisoner, notorious murderer Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
Despite the sweeping vistas of wintry Wyoming, Tarantino keeps the settings intimate, so much so that you could easily see this being adapted to the stage with very few adjustments. Despite the limitations of the setting, though, it never feels like a small movie or limited in scope. Although he’s stated his main inspiration for the story was “The Thing”, there’s a clear homage to Agatha Christie in the set-up and execution of the mystery as nine strangers are gathered together in a remote and isolated place only for their sometimes intertwined histories to be revealed. Indeed there’s a sequence which is pure Christie, as Samuel L Jackson’s Marquis Warren exercises his little grey cells to unravel at least part of the conspiracy.
As usual, Tarantino has assembled a wonderful ensemble to bring his script to life and while you may expect Russell and Jackson to deliver the goods (and they do), it’s Walton Goggins who really stands out. An almost perennial fixture in character roles and memorable supporting characters, he seizes his chance to be centre stage with gusto here. Jennifer Jason Leigh also delivers a fantastic turn as the foul mouthed and vicious yet playfully sardonic Daisy Domergue.
Replete with whip smart writing – peppered of course with profanity and expletives, black humour and blood shed aplenty, “The Hateful Eight” may not win over any of those unconvinced by Tarantino’s previous efforts nor his in-your-face auteurship. There’s a slight air of self-indulgence in its 187 minute running time and it sags slightly in the middle as a result and the cynical amongst you might suggest Tarantino’s preference for an interval is intended to mask this brief lull. The version I saw – sadly not in the prized 70mm format – didn’t have a break but the film doesn’t suffer too much from not having it, thanks to the sparky dialogue and the excellent cast.
An entertaining and timeless tale (it could easily be set in any era and almost any genre with only minor changes), despite the tantrums and tribulations that have plagued the film: leaked screenplays, projection formats and – here in the UK – distribution problems, “The Hateful Eight” is another success; bloody, bold and brazenly wicked.