The more time I spend time thinking about THE HATEFUL EIGHT, the more I appreciate its near greatness. For as much as I’d like to recommend the film to other movie lovers, the graphic nature of the violence that is very much a part of the Tarantino signature is part of what holds it back.
As the film progresses, its evolution shows just how well-written it is. For the first hour of the film, it honestly felt a bit slow. Tarantino probably could have cut this portion down to about half the length without losing much of anything, apart from some opportunity to insert more music. And while we’re on the topic, half of the music was great. The score from Ennio Morricone was of a high quality you might expect, even if some of it was pulled from other films for which Morricone has composed (The Thing and Exorcist II). The song Jennifer Jason Leigh sings felt superfluous, and some of the other songs they played just felt out of place.
On the topic of things I didn’t fully enjoy about the film was the graphic violence. While I was prepared for it, both by knowing it’s a Tarantino film and having been told by several people that this might be his bloodiest yet, the first half of the film lulled me into a spot where I doubted it was going to seem excessive. While I still maintain that Kill Bill Vol 1 felt bloodier, and more excessively so, the second half of THE HATEFUL EIGHT certainly took the film into the discussion.
We don’t really need to see heads exploding, do we?
And when we do, not to give too much away, but it comes from firearms whose blasts I wouldn’t expect to have this effect.
The reason that those scenes and a couple others bother me a bit is because the movie is otherwise really, really good, and at this rate, it would take an “edited for television” version to allow many of my friends and family to be able to appreciate it. And while some of them abhor violence and would get sick to their stomach by a couple of the graphic scenes, at least two of them would just scoff at the displays and lose interest in the film.
The performances in this snowy western were really good, on the whole, though aside from Samuel L. Jackson, there wasn’t much in the way of nuance needed or ranges of emotion from the characters. Kurt Russell had a badass character, strong in his resolve and principles, but we don’t get much background on him to understand why, and he hits the same note the entire film. More background is given on the character portrayed by Walton Goggins, but “self preservation” is the only game he plays, which makes it tough to really understand what he was all about. Just about everything he was saying and doing could’ve been a lie, felt that way, and was speculated to be as such during dialogue in the film. Jennifer Jason Lee did a wonderful job playing a terrible, terrifying woman, but aside from being painted with loud colors, the character was very flat. The talents of the other fine actors in the cast are essentially wasted on bit parts, despite their on-screen time.
The plot was finely crafted, the dialogue shined in parts, but the pacing was too slow and the ending wasn’t anything special. At points, I was expecting things to go the way of the famous Agatha Christie novel, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, but alas, nothing that special. It wouldn’t have taken much, either. Just one final twist from a character whose background hadn’t been corroborated by anyone and could have easily switched it up in the final moments before trotting off proudly. So close, yet, so far.
My rating: 80 out of 100