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The Dose: Tarantino forcefully returns to Old West in ‘The Hateful Eight’

The Dose: Tarantino forcefully returns to Old West in ‘The Hateful Eight’

The Dose: Tarantino forcefully returns to Old West in ‘The Hateful Eight’
January 07
23:41 2016

Preston Mitchell | Staff Writer


Quentin Tarantino is back with another hyper-violent, controversial epic made for Western junkies and fans who already love his work. Qualified as both, I can thoroughly say that I adored this masterful three-hour odyssey.

However, a distinction must be made for anyone seeing “The Hateful Eight” this weekend: While Tarantino appears to be treading upon the familiar frontier grounds of “Django Unchained,” this is a completely different kind of Western.

By its nature, “The Hateful Eight” will heavily deviate from what the mainstream has come to expect from Tarantino. I, for one, could not have been happier with it.

“The Hateful Eight” stars Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell as two bounty hunters, one of whom is chained to a rabid murderess (Jennifer Jason Leigh) so he can watch her hang at the rope. What follows after the prologue of introductions is, effectively, a five-act mystery play. Mostly taking place in a stagecoach lodge, a blizzard forces the three leads to cross paths with five other strangers. And in classic Hollywood fashion, one of these strangers is up to no good.

What makes “The Hateful Eight” such a breath of fresh air is that it summates everything great about Tarantino into a deliberately understated genre-film. Despite being three hours, it is a tightly-constructed think-piece with beautiful cinematography made to be marveled at inside a theater. In fact, this is tonally closer to his early career than anything he has directed in the past decade.

During the ’90s, Tarantino was crafting crime movies (“Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction”) with snappy wordplay and subtle references to the films of his childhood. After the turn of the millennium, he expanded his toolbox and began churning out stylized, fun endeavors like “Kill Bill,” “Inglourious Bastards” and “Django Unchained.” These films embodied the blaxploitation, war and kung fu movies of the ’60s and ’70s.

This time around, Quentin is undertaking the classic “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza” mold and splattering it with a spaghetti-Western aesthetic. Unlike his previous four films, which function as fourth-wall-breaking homages, “The Hateful Eight” is a brilliant mashup operating as a refined Old West whodunit. It is a series of incredibly well-written conversations that dynamize character motivations and constantly deliver suspense. Tarantino writes dialogue better than most, so his distinct verbiage mixed with unsettling violence make for an outing that never gets boring.

Leading the cast is Kurt Russell, who channels his “Big Trouble in Little China” performance by once again riffing on John Wayne. Sam Jackson, Tim Roth and Michael Madsen verbalize that dialogue amazingly well, as they are already Tarantino staples. The legendary Bruce Dern (“Nebraska”) is also great as a Confederate general with secrets of his own. Demián Bichir (“The Bridge”) did a solid job, while Walton Goggins (“Justified”) always alleviates the tension as a darkly-comic relief.

Nonetheless, the person to really look for during Oscar season is Jennifer Jason Leigh. Somebody who I initially figured was a relic from the ’90s, Leigh’s character has to encompass a bevy of emotions and she nails all of them with sinister ease.

For what it is, “The Hateful Eight” is bound to have its criticisms.

Personally, I only have two problems with it. First off, the movie attempts to make social commentary for racism that “Django Unchained” already accomplished. Since I’ve always found Tarantino to lack subtlety about such matters, I found most of the race discussions to be redundant and unnecessary.

Secondly, the film features Ennio Morricone’s first Western score in 40 years. Unfortunately, I was a tad underwhelmed by the end product. While his score is still good, I expected the composer of “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” and “The Thing” to deliver something more memorable. All the same, his music still amplified the film’s Italian influences and served its purpose well.

Despite those minor complaints, this is a great film. Just like most Tarantino movies, it’s an instant classic that will be taught about in film schools. I was especially enamored with the fact that he made a Western much closer in tone to “Jackie Brown” than “Django Unchained.” Not only did create a unique cowboy tale, he also illustrated that he can still make low-key entertainment driven solely on snappy wordplay.
If this sounds like your cup of tea, “The Hateful Eight” comes highly recommended.

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