As always, Quentin Tarantino delivers his signature blend of sharp dialogue, gratuitous violence and complex characters with foul mouths in The Hateful Eight. Told in six chapters, his eighth directed film is a tale full of revenge, justice, deception and horror that will make the audience laugh out loud and cringe in their seats.
Set in the backwoods of the late 19th century American frontier, bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is transporting the criminal Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the town of Red Rock to be hanged, when he picks up two travelers caught in the cold: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). With a blizzard nearing, the party of four is forced to take refuge in a cabin with four more strangers, each one more mysterious than the last.
Unlike Tarantino’s previous western Django Unchained, this film has very few gunfights and no large action sequences, though it does have just as much blood-splattering gore and violence.
The best part of the film is the writing. Each of the main characters is well-rounded and well-developed. The dialogue is chock-full of black humour and quotable lines, though some of the one-liners and wisecracks come off as cheesy at times. Most of all, it deals with the theme of racism following the American Civil War. Throughout the film, Warren is the target of racist remarks by the rest of the main characters. In spite of his achievements as both a soldier and a bounty hunter, the only respect he receives from any of them is due to the fact that he possesses a letter which he claims is personally written to him by Abraham Lincoln.
In this ensemble cast of seasoned actors, the performances of Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Jason Leigh are most deserving of praise. Jackson brings his usual bravado to a nonchalant gunslinger with multiple sides to him. At times, Warren can be a hero, anti-hero and even a villain, all of which Jackson pulls off with ease. No matter how despicable his character is made out to be, Jackson’s excellent acting manages to keep him charming and likeable. Jason Leigh, on the other hand, plays the role of a laid-back psychopath with a twisted sense of humour. She builds upon her role by focusing on the body language of the character and giving her little quirks, adding more layers to Daisy Domergue and making her performance more convincing. Seeing these two actors commit so much to their respective roles is one of the highlights of this film.
This film sees Tarantino make a huge creative departure in terms of music. For the first time, the soundtrack not only contains a complete original score, it is also composed by Ennio Morricone, who is best known for his work in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, with very little sampling from other films. The musical score both perfectly sets the atmosphere and mood for every scene, and enhances the effect of the action and dialogue throughout the film.
It is hard to believe this film almost did not get made. In 2014, the first draft of the script accidentally surfaced online, prompting Tarantino to cancel the film. It was only after discovering how positively fans reacted to the leaked material that he finally reconsidered.
The Hateful Eight is one crazy ride from start to finish. Though it may not be as memorable as Tarantino’s other films, there are moments that will definitely be hard to forget. I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.