Sunday, March 27, 2016

Video review: "The Hateful Eight"

“The Hateful Eight” struck many observers as a sharp departure for writer/director Quentin Tarantino, who tends to love freewheeling stories with lots of locations, walk-on bit characters and sudden twists of the plot. “Eight” was essentially a bunch of strangers stuck in a single room for three hours, the tension slowly ratcheting up.

(The blood, however, pools much more quickly.)

But in a lot of ways it’s a return to the form of “Reservoir Dogs,” Tarantino’s first feature film, which relied heavily on enclosed spaces in which violent characters try to make sense of shifting loyalties.

It’s not quite in the top tier of Tarantino films, like “Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.” But it firmly belongs in that second rank, along with “Django Unchained,” boasting plenty of entertaining face-offs and spouted soliloquies. For a three-hours picture, it goes by pretty quick.

The set-up is simple. Eight (for now) people are trapped by a terrible blizzard in a remote Wyoming cabin sometime in the years after the Civil War. They struggle to figure out who is not who they say, who’s loyal to who, and who deserves to be gunned down.

Answer to that last question: all of them, for one reason or another.

They include an infamous bounty hunter who always brings his quarry in alive (Kurt Russell); his current “client,” a foul-mouthed lady gangster (Jennifer Jason Leigh); a proud and decrepit ex-Confederate general (Bruce Dern) searching for his lost son; a black Union officer who’s also turned to the bounty hunting game (Samuel L. Jackson); a former rebel raider who claims to be the new sheriff at the closest town (Walton Goggins); a prissy British hangman (Tim Roth); a near-silent cow puncher (Michael Madsen); and Bob (Demián Bichir), a mysterious Mexican almost completely hidden by his coat, hat and beard.

Various alliances form, natural and otherwise, then break apart. The bounty hunters have an easy affinity for each other, and those on the side of the Confederacy soon square off against the Union loyalists.

Each character gets at least one moment where they step to the fore of the rhetorical stage, but there’s no single protagonist. Perhaps closest is Jackson’s Major Marquis Warren, who gives a long speech that’s notable for both its righteous anger at the injustice of slavery and the absolutely filthy way he goes about gaining some small measure of revenge for it.

“The Hateful Eight” is a long, blood-soaked but engaging dance through Western tropes.

Oh, and don’t forget to keep an ear out for Ennio Morricone’s Oscar-winning musical score.

Bonus features are nothing to brag about. Tarantino is among a number of high-profile filmmakers who are disdainful of participating in promotional material. (Despite the mountains of press they do when their movie is coming out.)

There are exactly two featurettes: “Beyond the Eight: A Behind-the-Scenes Look” and “Sam Jackson’s Guide to Glorious 70mm.”



1 comment:

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