Gritty, gory The Hateful Eight is one hell of a ride

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When The Hateful Eight was released late last year, critics and film geeks everywhere touted the film as Quentin Tarantino’s first western. And though Eight is definitely his first film that is actually set in the old west, it’s hardly the first time the Oscar-winner has tried his hand at the genre. In fact, Tarantino has been putting his revisionist twist on westerns for years.

Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are littered with references to classic westerns and both culminate in epic shootouts. Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 are essentially classic, western, anti-hero, revenge flicks with loads of Asian cinema awesomeness thrown in for good measure. Inglorious Bastards was a western about cowboy-esque American soldiers fighting the nazis in WWII and Django Unchained was pretty much a straight-up western set in the old south, or, as Tarantino jokingly referred to it, a “southern”. But Eight is something else entirely.

Set before and during a massive blizzard in post-Civil War Wyoming, Eight is a uniquely Tarantino-esque western-whodunnit hybrid that might just be the Oscar winner’s funniest, most fully realized film since Pulp Fiction.

Shot in eye-poppingly gorgeous Ultra Panavision 70 by acclaimed cinematographer Robert Richardson (an Oscar winner for Hugo, The Aviator, and JFK) Tarantino gets his classic western on in glorious fashion in Eight and the finished product is a graphic, foul-mouthed Clue game of a film with more twists and reversals of fortune than should be allowed by law.

While Tarantino’s homage to the gritty, spectacularly violent spaghetti westerns of directors Sergio Leone (The Dollars Trilogy, Once Upon a Time in the West) and Sergio Corbucci (1966’s Django) received a fistful of Oscar nods, not to mention a richly deserved win for iconic The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly composer Ennio Morricone, Eight was not a huge hit with audiences or critics. Some called the film too long, some had issues with the violence and even more had trouble with the almost constant use of the N-word, which is uttered upwards of 60 times onscreen in Eight. And though that’s a considerable drop from the roughly 110 times the N-word was used in Django Unchained, I understand how that, and the liberal use of terms like “bitch” and “whore” can be extremely off-putting to some viewers.

Of course, if bad language and vividly gory onscreen violence isn’t your bag, then you probably aren’t a big Tarantino fan to begin with. So, definitely steer clear of this one in-flight. But if you’re looking for a rollicking, R-rated good time in a snowbound cabin in the woods with some of the finest character actors working in film today, then Eight is right up your dark, twisted alley.

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Starring Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen, Channing Tatum and former Oscar-nominees Bruce Dern, Tim Roth and Demián Bichir, Eight also features an inspired supporting turn from Justified star Walton Goggins as the Sheriff. And though Jennifer Jason Leigh collected most of Eight’s acting accolades earlier this year – including her first-ever Oscar nod from the Academy – the real star here is Tarantino regular Samuel L. Jackson who gives one of the best performances of his career as bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren.

Forget Will Smith and Idris Elba, the real crime this #OscarSoWhite award season was that Jackson’s towering performance here didn’t make the cut. Spectacular in every scene he’s in, Jackson is the quintessential Tarantino actor and he turns in another epic, howlingly funny performance in Eight.

And though I’d like nothing more than to dissect Eight’s twisty-turny plot for you further, Tarantino has crafted such a wonderfully ornate story here that it would be shame to give anything else away. In fact, I think the film’s complex, crackerjack plot – which is virtually impossible to encapsulate in a conventional theatrical trailer without spoiling any of the surprises – is a huge reason why Eight tanked so badly in theaters. Just try explaining the plot to a friend after you see it and you’ll know what I mean. It’s impossible. And that’s half the fun, so, steer clear of Internet spoilers, order up a stiff drink or two from the cabin crew and buckle up for a wild ride.

Now playing on select Aer Lingus, British Airways, Lufthansa, EVA Air, Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic flights worldwide, The Hateful Eight is also available via streaming at Google Play, iTunes and Amazon Vid

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