Review by J.T. Johnson
When I first watched “The Hateful Eight” in 2015, I must admit that I didn’t like the film all that much. I thought it was overly long, I didn’t care for the characters as much as much as in previous Tarantino films and I think that I was expecting something along the lines “Django Unchained” or maybe even “Kill Bill” or “Inglourious Basterds”. Therefore, the reason I’m reviewing the film now ahead of “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained” is due to the fact that I didn’t want to end these reviews with my least favorite Tarantino film.
Before I continue, though, I also want to say that for the purposes of these reviews, I did revisit every film before writing my reviews. Writer and director Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film is no exception to the rule. I must also admit that I rather enjoyed this film a lot more the second time around, even going so far as to say that I now like the movie.
I do still think that it is his weakest film. The difference, though, is that I see now that he was setting out to make something more along the lines of “Reservoir Dogs”, another film that is set largely in one place with rather unsavory characters all around. Tarantino also said that another unlikely inspiration for the movie was “The Thing” from 1982, another film about isolated men and also starring Kurt Russell.
The story for this film is pretty simple. John “The Hangman” Ruth (Russell) is transporting Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock in order to collect her bounty and watch her hang. Along the way, they pick up a black bounty hunter named Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and a former Confederate fighter Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). Warren is also turning in some bounties and Chris is actually heading to Red Rock in order to be sworn in as Sheriff.
Unfortunately, a blizzard is just behind them and they need to take shelter in an isolated haberdashery. Here, they meet Señor Bob (Damián Bichir), an executioner named Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the mysterious Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and a former Confederate general Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). Once there, they must wait out the storm while trying to figure out who they can and can’t trust.
While watching the film this time, I watched it more as a “hangout” film where we get to spend time with these characters, as I did when I watched “Jackie Brown”. The plot is just there to introduce you to these characters. Thankfully, there are some twists and turns that remind you that this is a Tarantino film and while he is restrained with the violence at first, it does eventually pick up.
I do think that the difference between these unsavory characters and those we’ve met in the past is that there was always something weirdly likable about characters in Tarantino’s past films. Sure, they were bad people but Tarantino humanized them enough that we got to see their complex personalities. Here, the characters are pretty irredeemable from the start and mostly irredeemable by the end of it, though a couple of characters do get a little redemption by the end of the whole bloody affair.
Yes, this is still Tarantino’s weakest film, but considering how great all of his other films are, that really isn’t saying much. I enjoyed “The Hateful Eight” a lot more the second time around even if I do feel that the characters are a little more reprehensible and that the movie’s runtime is a little bloated for what the plot can support. If you haven’t seen it, I would say give it a shot but just go in knowing that it’ll be the weakest film in Tarantino’s library.