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Hateful Eight, The


Stars: Samuel L Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Demian Bichir, Michael Madsen, Channing Tatum, James Parks, Zoe Bell

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Whatever else you can say (and there’s a great deal that could be said regarding this film!) about “The 8th Film by Quentin Tarantino” (now there’s overweening modesty for you) at least he has proved with The Hateful Eight that he has finally learned something useful about casting.

So, why do I say that?

Well, if you recall Django Unchained (please accept my apologies for my suggesting that) then you might be unlucky enough to remember a disconcertingly bad performance in a minor but not short enough role, complete with a crass and ridiculous accent, by one Quentin Tarantino whose contribution resembled an embarrassingly failed screen test.

This time around, Tarantino has sensibly ignored another chance to do a Hitchcock and relied instead on genuine good actors to bring his hyper-violent blood-drenched homage to Italian Spaghetti Western to life,

Think spaghetti super-soaked in gore and decorate with blood clots and you’ll feel the force. Few could accuse Tarantino of subtlety and if there were any traces of such sensitivity here then I must have missed them.

That said, there’s no doubt that Tarantino is an auteur: his movies are uniquely (and all too frequently unnecessarily) hyper-violent and drenched with enough four-letter words to make his movie a must for Christmas Day on Channel Four.

His desire to break boundaries, whether necessary or not, infects his movies and, confirming his status as an auteur, the word “masterpiece” has appeared in very many critical assessments of The Hateful Eight.

Tarantino kicks off with a long but effective opening sequence set in snow-covered Wyoming sometime after the end of the American Civil War. There key characters meet around the stagecoach carrying bounty hunter Kurt Russell (unrecognisable behind a massive moustache) and his seriously strange prisoner Jennifer Jason Leigh to be handed in at the nearby town of Red Rock.

By the time the stage sets off for its destination, Union soldier-tuned bounty hunter Samuel L Jackson has hitched a lift with Russell to bring some corpses to claim the rewards due him, along with new passenger Walter Goggins who claims to be the new Sheriff of Red Rock.

So far, so typically Western:

But remember, this is a film by Quentin Tarantino who then switches genre to an Agatha Christie “who is going to die next?” type thriller when the stagecoach passengers disembark at the cutely named stopover Millie's Haberdashery, where they are joined by more oddball characters all of whom become embroiled in increasingly bloody mayhem...

Despite the switch of genre The Hateful Eight never loses its blood-spattered grip.

Tarantino’s uniquely created additional characters, notably Bruce Dern as a ancient, somewhat deranged, Confederate general who survived the civil war, make for fascinating viewing while the dialogue delivers deluges of swearwords and worse, with Jackson having a ball in a riotous role that dominates the proceedings and makes his every appearance a unique it eminently bad taste delight. And Jennifer Jason Leigh, made up to resemble the unfortunate victim of a tram crash, gives the performance of her career as an increasingly deranged killer.

All in all, the entire cast is picture perfect, within the boundaries of an obviously auteur-driven bloodbath.

It's vivid, violent and often vile – which is what you should expect from Tarantino. He is determined to imprint his creative ego on every image, line of dialogue and action and he does. The Hateful Eight is overlong (especially when seen without an interval), overwrought and completely compelling from start to finish.

Ironically, one of the least inventive aspects of The Hateful Eight, Ennio Morricone’s rather over-familiar sounding score, which seemed redolent of dozens of spaghetti Westerns, won the film’s only Golden Globe.

So that’s what happens when critics choose awards.

Finally, to sum up, if you like your movies BIG, BOLD and BLOODY, then you can’t go wrong with The Hateful Eight. Rating: eight (of course).

Alan Frank

USA 2015. UK Distributor: Entertainment. Colour.
168 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 17 Jan 2016