Film Review: The Hateful Eight (★★★)

Hateful_Eight_Payoff_FINALHaving the time of his life, Quentin Tarantino’s newest western romp “The Hateful Eight” features the writer/director’s slickest and wildest ensemble since “Inglourious Basterds.”  With a masterful score by Ennio Morricone, which takes the forefront of any technical aspect that the film offers, Tarantino enthusiasts will be showered in blood squibs and humor all throughout.  While the cast of players are significantly impressive, Tarantino’s choices in development and plot devices aren’t in his top-tier of constructions that he’s displayed over his illustrious career.  Definitely a step in the right direction following “Django Unchained,” this shockingly funny yet ultimately satisfying roller coaster is well worth your time.

Starring a slew of Hollywood actors including Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Demian Bichir, and Samuel L. Jackson, “The Hateful Eight” tells the story a pair of bounty hunters who try to find shelter during a blizzard but get involved in a plot of betrayal and deception.

Quentin Tarantino is a master of integrating both music and story beautifully in his films.  Morricone’s work is one of the finest marriages of score and story seen in years.  Tarantino’s pairing with Cinematographer Robert Richardson has the Oscar-winning DP developing one of his richest canvases yet, with a 70mm foundation.  Costume Designer Courtney Hoffman puts her stamp on the old west while Production and Set Designer Yohei Tanada and Rosemary Brandenburg construct a killer carriage and bar.

If you’re looking for a best-in-show, you don’t have to look further than the wonderfully animated and diabolical Jennifer Jason Leigh.  With a career of subtle brilliance in films like “Single White Female” and “Margot at the Wedding,” and not-so-subtle brilliance like “Georgia,” Leigh owns the screen, even when she’s not speaking.  A monumental achievement that book ends a vivacious year that has also included her voice work in Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s “Anomalisa.” Leigh is at the top of her game.  One of the year’s best performances.

waltergoggins_hatefuleightJust a notch below Leigh is the charming and witty Walton Goggins, who runs away with just about every scene he inhabits.  Goggins plays up the balance between idiotic cowboy and devious accomplice with stunning resolve.   It’s a slam dunk of a performance.

Demian Bichir’s Mexican helper feels out of place at times while Bruce Dern’s aging and ailing military man can’t muster much from his chair.  Michael Madsen is regulated to a few grunts and words while Tim Roth seems to be channeling a Christoph Waltz-type of performance but a bit more pizzazz.  Kurt Russell’s “Hang Man” is ferociously displayed but is held back by his own plot devices.  It’s difficult to have Russell elevate things that aren’t there.  Samuel L. Jackson’s Major Marquis Warren monologues like he’s at the dinner table from “Django” (time ten) but seems off the leash at times like Amanda Plummer in “Pulp Fiction,” which don’t necessarily go together.

“The Hateful Eight” sings at times, and seeing it as a “roadshow” is an experience that any movie-lover can appreciate.  The first half can drag quite a bit, as the film tries to find its footing in places, but the second moves like a fireball.  From a technical standpoint, you can find great comfort in “Hateful Eight’s” demeanor and aura, as it does things that we don’t get to see these days.  There are shortcomings to find, but not enough to dwell upon.

“The Hateful Eight” opens on Christmas Day.