THE HATEFUL EIGHT
*** (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Quentin Tarantino
STARS Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell
Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson in The Hateful Eight (Photo: The Weinstein Company)
(For a look at the Best & Worst Films of 2015, go here.)
Billed as "the 8th film by Quentin Tarantino" (not at all accurate, but we'll let it slide), The Hateful Eight runs just over three hours in its limited roadshow edition (the version reviewed here) and just over two-and-a-half hours in the wider version that will be shown everywhere (the latter excising the overture, the intermission, and a few minutes of narrative). Either way, the film moves on the screen like a cheetah on fire, feeling far shorter than many of the 100-or-so-minute duds I've endured this year.
The credit for that, now as always, goes to Tarantino's writing, among the most fluid and lively since the days of Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder productions. The vibrant monologues and exchanges are in the service of a Western-cum-murder-mystery, as a disparate assortment of characters are stranded in a desolate cabin in post-Civil War Wyoming. Chief among these bad-asses are a pair of bounty hunters, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and John "The Hangman" Ruth (Kurt Russell), as well as Ruth's prisoner, the murderous Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a racist not at all happy that the South lost the war.
The over-the-top gore isn't nearly as awkward, embarrassing, oppressive or tiresome as Tarantino's overuse of both the "n" word and the "b" word. As Spike Lee once said of the former, "I'm not against the word... and I use it, but Quentin is infatuated with the word. What does he want? To be made an honorary black man?" I think we all know the answer to that one.