The Hateful Eight (2015)

Rating: C

Dir: Quentin Tarantino
Star: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins

I’d like to thank Alcon Entertainment co-CEO Andrew Kosove for an early Christmas present, as it’s the Oscar screener sent to him which ended up getting leaked on the Internet, and saved us from having to spend any money on three very long hours of Tarantino windbaggery. Not long after the end of the American Civil War, bounty-hunter John Ruth (Russell) is taking his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Leigh), to the Wyoming town of Red Rock to stand trial, but is forced by a blizzard to hole up in a stagecoach stop called Minnie’s Haberdashery, along with half a dozen other individuals of questionable backgrounds and intents, including another bounty hunter (Jackson), Red Rock’s incoming new sheriff (Goggins), the town’s hangman, a former Confederate general and so on. As the blizzard rages outside, the eight players probe each others’ motives and backgrounds, on the way to a bloody finale, because not everyone is what they claim. Think Reservoir Dogs in stetsons, with an Ennio Morricone soundtrack, and the snowbound paranoia of The Thing thrown in for good measure.

Except, Dogs dates back from Tarantino’s early days, when he could tell an entire story in less than 150 minutes. That length is fine when you have enough going on to justify it. Here, not so much, with the absence of QT’s favourite editor, the late Sally Menke, apparently greatly missed. Instead, you have two hours of characters flapping their jaws in a cabin, and if we see one sequence of characters nailing the door shut, seems like we see half a dozen. Which also begs the question, why all the fuss about it being in 70mm? To capture the magnificent, sweeping vistas from the door over to the fireplace? This is probably a good 90-minute film, and it’s thus a shame it runs nearer 170. The performances are fine (man, we need to see more of Leigh again), and the characters generally interesting ideas: they just aren’t much more than that. You almost sense Tarantino’s last two films have been Westerns, because that’s the only genre he can get to say “nigger” a lot, without getting too much flak. Move on, mate; that shit’s getting old, and not improving with repetition.