Spoilers for some of Quentin Tarantino’s movies including The Hateful Eight so please beware. But before you decide not to read this because you don’t want to know how things end, UberApe and I HATED The Hateful Eight and judging by the reviews of those we saw it with and several other critics and bloggers, we are in the minority.
There are those who absolutely love all of Tarantino’s work, and those who absolutely hate it. UberApe trends more towards the love, but I fall somewhere in the middle. I think Tarantino produces some great work and manages to make exciting movies even when they are not good. Unfortunately the beginning of the end was with Inglorious Basterds, the movie I feel was Tarantino’s best and most mature film he has made. He took what made him a genius in film making (captivating monologues, over the top characters, cool movie references, and glorious violence), and produced a well thought out and beautifully acted revenge flick. With this movie came all sorts of praise and awards which he should have been getting all along with his other masterpieces like Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction. The praise must have gone to his head because Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight is Tarantino trying too hard to make what he thinks a Tarantino movie is supposed to be. Django was a sad repeat of Basterds just set in the slave era. The Hateful Eight is just a sad attempt to make a serious western.
People keep raving about the performances in The Hateful Eight, but I have to argue that Jennifer Jason Leigh was the only person in the movie trying to be more until the end when Walton Goggins’ Mannix finally woke up and started to become interesting. By then, I was ready to leave the theater, it was too little too late. Leigh’s performance was subtle, especially in comparison to her scenery chewing co-stars. She would give a look or a smirk that said more than any piece of dialogue. You could see the gears turning in her head, playing dumb while plotting what to do next. Her Daisy Domergue was the only character I could root for. She is supposed to be this dangerous and horrible outlaw, but we never hear or see her crimes she was sentenced to death for. When Kurt Russel’s John Ruth continually and viciously beats her, it seems overkill when we know nothing about why she deserves this kind of treatment.
None of the characters were well developed, which is really strange considering the most minor characters in a Tarantino film get some kind of back story. He just left these half-baked characters in the hands of his stars and they phoned their performances in. Russel was doing his swagger thing that made him famous in the 80’s, Samuel L. Jackson was doing his vengeful, angry, black man thing, Bruce Dern was recycling his character from Nebraska and added a dash of institutionalized racism. Tim Roth and Michael Madsen were given nothing to do other than sit there and eventually be killed. Goggins spewed hate speech until he didn’t when his character did a crazy 180 and teamed up with Jackson’s Marquis Warren. The dialogue was Tarantino at his hype buying worst. Long monologues full of M-Fers and the N-bombs which is nothing new in his movies, but before they were delivered with a wink and an over-the-top manic glee. The Hateful Eight was all about the seriousness of the post-Civil War attitudes whites and blacks had towards one another making the rants feel way out of place. In the suburban theater we saw the movie in had lots of nervous laughter as if the audience was trying to get past the uncomfortable language.
The dialogue was repetitive as well. When a character was introduced, their attributes were repeated several times by the same character. When Ruth and Warren first meet, Warren explains to Domergue (who had already been taken prisoner by Ruth by that point and probably knows all about her captor) all about how Ruth is the hanging man. When he catches you, you hang because he is a bad mother f-er and he likes to watch his bounty hang. No bullet in the back for you. You hang. Then they get to the lodgings for the night and Warren enlightens to all the other patrons how Ruth is the hanging man, then Ruth defines himself as the hanging man and Domergue is going to hang because she did bad things (which is the only thing not expanded on). The same song and over explaining dance happens with Mannix, Warren, and Dern’s General Smithers. This guy did this in the Civil War, and then did this. Oh, did I mention he did this and this? When the killings start (after two hours of nothing) all I kept thinking was “yay, now they can’t talk about themselves anymore.”
I think what truly offended me about The Hateful Eight was how lackluster it was. Tarantino films should never be dull, even when they aren’t that good. Jackie Brown and Death Proof were not good movies, but I was not bored in the theater. Django Unchained was terrible, but at least Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz were fascinating to watch. When both of their characters were killed, the movie became instantly uninteresting, but thankfully it was almost over by that point. Tarantino took himself too serious with The Hateful Eight and made a tedious movie. I felt all of those 187 minutes sitting in my theater chair. At one point, I almost turned to UberApe and asked if he wanted to just go, but I didn’t just in case he was enjoying them movie. Turns out he was contemplating the same thing and didn’t ask because he didn’t want to be the downer. When the “Last Chapter” title card came up, I may have loudly groaned a “thank god,” which earned me a couple of glares. Sorry to whomever was sitting around me, I didn’t mean to be a killjoy.
I feel so strange being in the minority of hating a Tarantino movie. A part of me wants to go back and try to see what everyone thought was so brilliant about it, but I don’t think I can sit thru the entire 187 minute run time again and not go crazy. I know I am going to get all sorts of disagreements in the comments section and please feel free to explain to me why you loved The Hateful Eight. I want to know what you found so great about the movie because I just didn’t see it. What did I miss?