Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Esteemed Critic Reviews The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight is a parody of a Quentin Tarantino film. It gratuitously covers all of his essential themes: excessive violence, the assertion of masculine authority, camaraderie amongst disparate peoples, revenge at all costs. There are guns aimed and one-liners delivered. Plenty of heads explode like ripe tomatoes; Jennifer Jason Leigh's visage is constantly drenched in blood and gore. If people thought Pulp Fiction was gratuitous at the time, well, The Hateful Eight makes it look like a Disney film (It was, actually: Pulp Fiction was produced by Miramax, which was owned by Disney at the time). The first half is quite excellent; Tarantino establishes an interesting premise, in which a series of coincidences unite two bounty hunters, a sheriff, and a cadre of men who are not whom they seem. Few mainstream directors allow their actors to chew dialogue and scene like Tarantino, and this is one of his finest casts. Kurt Russell in particular is fascinating as an honor-bound hanger of men (and women) whose occasional softness clashes strongly with his frequent outburst of violence. It's all good till the blood starts flowing; at that point, The Hateful Eight turns into a slatterpunk film not unlike The Evil Dead. Jackson's character Major Warren is castrated, and everybody leaks so much bodily fluid that you wonder how they all don't drop dead immediately. The momentum of the film's best scene, where Warren goads an elderly civil war general into attacking him by describing the humiliating manner in which his bounty hunter son died, is destroyed by a queer montage, with a squeaky-voiced Tarantino providing summary. But you probably expected quirkiness. There really is no one like Quentin, with his mismatched love of Westerns, pulp, and art-house cinema. This isn't an easy film to watch, however, even for fans of his previous work. The violence that frequently assails Leigh's Domergue seems undeserved and is difficult to stomach, she being the movie's only real female character. The ending, in which a grievously-injured Warren and sheriff (played by Walton Goggins) maliciously hang Domergue, fails as some sort of triumph, since we haven't seen her do anything more villainous than the movie's other characters. But The Hateful Eight is, to borrow a term from my comrade Gordon P. Weaver, a bro-movie: all that matters, in the end, is who's the baddest motherfucker standing.

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