Yes, “The Hateful Eight” Is
By Skip Sheffield
You can’t accuse Quentin Tarantino of false advertising. “The Hateful Eight” is about as hateful a movie as you are likely to see this or any year. Set a few years after the War Between the States in the wilderness of Wyoming, this neo-Western, written and directed by Tarantino, is more than three hours of violence, cruelty and nastiness. There is not a single admirable character in it. This makes it really hard to “like” this movie; yet there is a strange, desolate beauty and artfully-executed choreography to it.
The movie begins rather pretentiously with an announced Overture by prolific “Spaghetti Western’ composer Ennio Morricone and the fact it is the eighth film by Quentin Tarantino. It is divided into six chapters with titles. The camera pans in on a snow-covered full-size stone crucifix with a silent, snow-covered Jesus. I suppose this is to contrast with the profane devilish action to follow. A stagecoach is struggling through the nearly whiteout snow. It carries one John Ruth (Kurt Russell, channeling John Wayne), a bounty-hunter, and his captive, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Lee). Jennifer has been uglied up for the part of this female desperado (she sports bruises, cuts and a black eye) and will be further abused in the course of the journey. John Ruth is no gentleman. He is a sadistic opportunist known as “The Hangman,” and that is just what he intends to do to Daisy, once they reach their destination of Red Rock.
Along the road two strangers are introduced. Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a Southern renegade, claims he is to be appointed the new Sheriff of Red Rock. An African-American man flags down the stage and begs a ride, since a blizzard is fast approaching. The man is Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a Union veteran of the Civil War who served in the Negro troops. Maj. Warren carries a letter he claims was written to him personally by President Abraham Lincoln. He is also a bounty hunter.
As the storm worsens the driver decides to stop and wait it out at Minnie’s Haberdashery. Minnie is not there, but some guy named Bob (Demian Bichir) says he is watching the place while Minnie visits her sick mom. Holed up at the haberdashery is Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the hangman of Red Rock; a cowboy named Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and an old Confederate general, Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). As the storm worsens, yet another character is introduced; a younger man named Jody (Channing Tatum). It seems that in addition to being low-lifes, most of the characters are liars. When true identities are revealed, all Hell, to put it mildly, breaks loose.
I know it’s only a movie. The blood is fake Karo syrup. The wounds are makeup effects. The bullets aren’t real. Just the same I felt queasy after the incredibly violent, bloody “Last Chapter.” Let’s just say this is not a good date movie.