By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on January 2, 2016)
(Hum your favorite Morricone song for 7 minutes…or check your email and come back)
8 down, 2 to go.
Quentin Tarantino was the guest on a recent episode of AXS TV’s The Big Interview with Dan Rather. It was actually one of the more engaging and genuinely interesting interviews that I’ve seen to date with the iconoclastic writer-director (who is not shy about granting them and/or talking about himself ad nauseam-with minimal prompting).
One thing I learned was that Tarantino plans to make 10 films, and then he’s out. Apparently, this has been his plan all along; but it was news to me. Maybe he’s modeling himself after Kubrick? Then again, it’s likely that Mr. Kubrick didn’t plan to stop at 13 films; he had to stop there because he sort of…died. I’m sure it’s more along the lines of “going out on top”, which is understandable (especially if you’ve already made a bundle).
Q.T. also told Rather that once he is so sated, he wouldn’t necessarily retire from the creative arts altogether. More specifically, he expressed interest in writing for the stage. This would be a good move, I think, because he has a particular genius for penning great dialog; in fact I think it trumps his other filmmaking skills (formidable as they may be). He could handily become his generation’s David Mamet; he shares a similar gift for giddily profane pentameter (pair up Glengarry Glen Ross with Pulp Fiction sometime).
But for now…
Which brings us to The Hateful Eight, which is (as the director helpfully annotates in the opening titles) “The 8th Film by Quentin Tarantino” (just in case we nod off during the Overture and are suddenly awakened in startled confusion by the first of many gunshots).
The director remains encamped in 19th Century America, moving a decade or so past the antebellum South tableau he employed in Django Unchained. The setting is a wintry Wyoming. A horseless, snow-bound bounty hunter named Major Marquis Warren (Samuel Jackson) flags down a stagecoach, chartered by another bounty hunter, who goes by the charming nickname of “The Hangman” (Kurt Russell, affecting an unabashed John Wayne impression throughout). Russell is transporting alleged murderess and bank robber Daisy Domergue (a scenery-chewing Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock. Russell warily takes the stranded Jackson aboard (along with his baggage-three outlaw corpses).
After picking up an additional straggler (Walton Goggins) down the trail a piece, a man claiming to be heading to Red Rock to assume duties as the new sheriff, the expanded party pulls into Minnie’s Haberdashery (sort of an old west Motel 6) to wait out a blizzard. Here they find a Whitman’s Sampler of western movie archetypes (Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern) who may or may not be there to simply round off the “8”. I can say no more except…the mystery is afoot (if it’s an inch).
(You can go pee now. What remains of this sophomoric review will be here, waiting.)
As usual, Tarantino does a cinematic mash-up, evoking (to name a few) Day of the Outlaw, Stagecoach, Rio Bravo (again), Lifeboat, And Then There Were None, Green for Danger, The Petrified Forest, Ice Station Zebra and John Carpenter’s The Thing (if you see it, you’ll see it).
You may have heard the film was shot in 70mm. Veteran DP Robert Richardson (in his 5th collaboration with Tarantino) does a yeoman job with the format; but this expansive scope is an odd choice considering that most of the action is in a finite space, using claustrophobic staging (and the bulk of the exterior shots are of a blinding snowstorm!).
There’s a terrific 90-minute chamber piece buried somewhere in here, screaming to get out of this epic-length film (175 minutes, if you see the “roadshow” 70mm version replete with Overture, Intermission and Exit Music). In fact, it’s that patented snappy Tarantino patter I mentioned earlier that saves the day here; otherwise the film has that “déjà vu all over again” vibe that has unfortunately taken root since Inglourious Basterds.
Q.T.-you’ve done revenge. Here’s hoping 9 and 10 are less hateful and more thoughtful.