Every Quentin Tarantino movie is an event, especially as he continues to threaten to retire eventually, and perhaps sooner rather than later. On top of that, The Hateful Eight is a massive Western, with a great cast and a score from Ennio Morricone. It was right up Tarantino's alley, and was worth getting excited about. Alas, it couldn't live up to that excitement, at least not entirely.
The Hateful Eight is both expansive and intimate, depending on which portion of the movie we are talking about. Most of it takes place within a haberdashery during a blizzard, with our cast of characters all waiting out the storm. Kurt Russell plays a bounty hunter taking a murderous Jennifer Jason Leigh to be hanged, and along the way they meet up with Samuel L. Jackson, another bounty hunter, and Walton Goggins, a former Confederate soldier headed to become the sheriff of a Wyoming town. It should probably be mentioned this movie takes place right after the Civil War, it seems. When they arrive at the haberdashery, they run into Tim Roth, Demian Bichir, Michael Madsen, and Bruce Dern.
So, in short, we've got a bunch of men with guns, bounty hunters, former soldiers, racists, and a vicious, crude woman heading for a hanging. They are all together in a Tarantino film. You can probably guess where it goes. It turns out not everybody is who they seem, but Tarantino isn't interested in answering all those questions. Just some. What he's interested in is blood. A ton of blood.
This is a violent, ugly, vicious movie. It's brutal, and sometimes too much so, even for a fan of Tarantino. The movie wallows in ugliness and gore sometimes in a style more in line with a horror movie rather than a Tarantino Western. It's not exciting violence or stylized violence. It's just gore. There is no romance to this movie. It's just a bunch of awful people with guns blazing.
Fortunately, there are so many great actors in this movie. Leigh is the one who got an Oscar nod, and she is very good, but Roth is also a particular standout. The movie looks great, of course. The score is worthy of the Oscar it won for Morricone. However, all of the positives feel a little let down by the negatives of the movie. The Hateful Eight is a pretty good film, but "pretty good" is well below Tarantino's usual standards. This is probably his least good movie. Unless you love violence, you will probably be left wanting a little more. This is a film about violence, but it really could have used a little more substance beyond that. At least the movie ends on a high note. It washes the bad taste of some of the earlier scenes out of your mouth.
The Hateful Eight is currently available on Digital HD and will be released on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and On Demand on March 29 from Anchor Bay. Also included are "Beyond the Eight: A Behind-the-Scenes Look" and "Sam Jackson’s Guide to Glorious 70mm." These special features, like most special features, are only for people who have a particular interest in the logistics of film making. However, given Tarantino's personal passion for the artform, there is perhaps more to be taken from these particularly features than most.