Saw two movies in my birthday week – The Hateful Eight and The Revenant (review here). First up, on my actual birthday itself is The Hateful Eight, the new movie from Quentin Tarantino.
I’ve noticed over the last few years it’s become a trend to rip on Tarantino and his movies – I’m not exactly sure why, but I suspect it’s more contrarian than anything else. I don’t think I’ve ever claimed to dislike anything just because everyone else liked it, but whatever you gotta do to feel edgy, I suppose.
That’s a long winded way of saying I’ve been a fan of Tarantino since Reservoir Dogs, despite what I consider some missteps along the way. (Jackie Brown, Kill Bill, and the deplorable Deathproof). Pulp Fiction cemented his stature as a real auteur moviemaker for me, and he’s one of the few moviemakers I can forgive for movies I don’t care that much for.
I went in to Hateful Eight knowing pretty much what to expect, and when the movie was over, I hadn’t seen anything that surprised me, but that’s not to say the movie was predictable. I am a big fan of Tarantino’s character-driven writing. It tends to be self indulgent at times – especially through the dialogue – but that I can forgive too. Hateful Eight is no different here – there are plenty of times the dialogue feels a little too on the nose. I get the same feeling from Stephen King dialogue x 1,000,000.
The odd thing about this movie is that there are several blatant nods to The Thing (the superb Carpenter remake), that threw me for a loop in a good way. Intentional – unquestionably. I love meta references in writing. Where some critics might find that self-indulgent, I find that to be a playful gift to audience members. Personally speaking I find the experience of seeing something like that in a movie to be refreshing. If it’s woven into the fabric of the movie, it does not diminish or distract at all.
Plotwise, there’s what could be a logical fallacy in the motivations of certain characters that the entire plot of the movie hinges on that’s slightly gnawing at me, but that’s about it. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Tarantino will never come close to Pulp Fiction perfection ever again, I don’t think and Hateful Eight is a prime example of that. It’s not close to his best, but it is a pretty entertaining movie, full of violence and evil, but also humour and nobility. It was great to see Kurt Russell given a big role again, and it looks like his moustache stayed put from Bone Tomahawk too, and Walt Goggins – I thought he was great in The Shield, and he’s really good here also.
Things I didn’t like as much – Sam Jackson. It’s not that I’m tired of seeing him, but I might be getting there. Tarantino simply wrote another script that gives Jackson to play the ultimate badass, and it feels a little stale now. And not like this is truly the case, but it’s almost as if this particular character exists so that Tarantino can season the dialogue liberally with the word “nigger”. I can’t recall a movie where I’ve heard it more than this one. And the story that Jackson’s character gets to narrate in the course of the movie feels self-indulgent to me. The cruelty I guess I don’t mind that much in context, but it’s treated a little too flip for my liking and loses its impact.
Other than that and some very minor issues, I enjoyed this as much as Tarantino’s post-Kill Bill period. It’s not likely going to have me rushing for a second viewing anytime soon, but it did its job first time around.