Monday, 8 February 2016

The Hateful Eight (2015)

Quentin Tarantino's eighth movie, it just happens to have eight in the title and its another western, clearly smitten with the genre after 'Django Unchained'. Indeed this movie was originally going to be a sequel to said movie, which could of worked out well, possibly better than this methinks, but during the writing process fate took its course. Instead we have this slow burning murder mystery, of sorts, that brings together new and old cast members from Tarantino's past, whilst being a love letter to old school 70 mm film...because he can presumably, no other reason.

The plot goes something like this. Whilst on his way to the town of Red Rock with his prisoner Daisy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), John Ruth (Kurt Russell) picks up a Union bounty hunter named Major Marquis (Samuel L. Jackson). Ruth is suspicious but allows the Major to ride with him and his prisoner. Along the way Ruth then picks up another stranger who claims to be the new sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). They are all forced to spend more time together than bargained for as a powerful blizzard pretty much halts their progress, so they hole up at Minnie's Haberdashery, a large stagecoach stopover/lodge in the wilderness. Within the lodge are yet more odd characters, an old Confederate General (Bruce Dern),  cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), an English gentleman or toff (Tim Roth) and a Mexican (Demian Bichir). Ruth is suspicious of everyone, convinced they are all after his prize (Daisy), whilst Marquis clearly recognises some and begins plotting further action. Eventually the heat gets turned up on the situation as Marquis begins his course of action against the man he recognises and then someone poisons the coffee, with deadly results. Its then left to the remaining lodge dwellers to try and weed out the culprit, work out what exactly happened before they all arrived at the lodge and more importantly, how certain people connect with the occurring events. So bottom line, what we have here is basically an old fashioned whodunit set in the wild west, in a log cabin type situation...with lots of profanity and gore (ugh!).

So the film is over 3 hours long, and after sitting through this spiel I fully understand why. Like many other Tarantino movies the runtime is chocked full of needless dialog, absolutely pointless, aimless nattering that doesn't really do anything other than give Tarantino fanboys a hard-on, and clearly quench the man's thirst for apparent witty, slick humour (or so he thinks). Now of course this all stems from his earlier (better) movies which I don't have to name here, but sure enough that ship has long since sailed and the moment has well and truly past...Quentin. A good example of the utterly infuriating padding that could of easily been cut out was the 'nailing the door shut' sequences. This wooden lodge where everyone is holed up, is rickety, its a bit shabby at best, and the main door is broken for some reason. So the only way to keep the door shut and keep out the battering ice cold winds is to nail it shut. Now every bloody time someone enters or leaves the bloody cabin, the others have to nail the fucking door shut. The thing is, we have to watch this little ceremony every bloody time! one guy holds the door shut while the other nails it down, two pieces of wood and a nail at either end of each piece, wash rinse and repeat...about four bloody times. Was this supposed to be funny?

Along with this you have the usual typical Tarantino traits in dialog where two people are talking to each other about something, usually plot related, yet they keep going off on completely different tangents about God knows what that has nothing to do with the plot, its just aimless chat. Then when they do actually get on with the plot, the dialog is so detailed in wording, every little microscopic detail, every question or explanation so painstakingly drawn out with repetitive dialog, back and forth, that it just drives you nuts. I find myself screaming at the screen, just get on with it!!! Did we really need the precise details of how Major Marquis supposedly made General Smithers son walk naked for miles in the freezing snow, to the brink of death, only to then have him crawl over and suck his black cock? I mean Jesus Christ! was this necessary in the plot? or was it simply another secret fetish of Tarantino played out on the big screen, I start to wonder judging by his recent political views.

As for the characters, well its a very mixed bag in my opinion. Kurt Russell sure as hell looks the part there's no doubt about that, his facial hair deserves an Oscar. Alas his acting is by far the worst of the ensemble, right from the start he seemed completely out of place, as if Jack Burton had reached the old west. Walton Goggins was just annoying as hell with his accent, not sure what region or dialect its suppose to be (not being American), but my God it got on my nerves, and again he seemed completely miscast to me. As was Madsen who simply doesn't look the part for a cowboy, not in the slightest sorry. Stick him in a slick suit or black biker leathers sure, but he doesn't pull off the cowboy look in any way at all, complete fail in casting and performance. Dern does little but what he does is fine, he certainly looks the part of an old war General, again Roth merely does what he does best...a cockney, only this time in a dapper suit. Channing Tatum as the surprise cowboy casting is another epic miscast, another actor who simply (at this time) cannot pull off the cowboy look, and Bichir as Bob the Mexican, well...I could hardly understand half the things he said. Finally Jackson does what Jackson always does, look menacing and crazy whilst shouting and saying profane words in a cool manner, nothing new here folks. The only person who really seemed to stand out with an edgy performance was Jennifer Jason Leigh as the batty prisoner Daisy. Nothing Oscar worthy I might add, and nothing you wouldn't really expect from the actress because she's always been loopy, but she's easily the best going here.

The movie looks sumptuous in places I'll give it that, the icy, snow laden landscapes, the fact it was actually snowing at times made it look even better (and colder). The authentic costumes and props really sprung to life when drenched in snow, alas interiors weren't really anything special, and what's more they looked like sets...which was genuinely surprising. The old 70 mm format certainly adds to that grandiose, classic, western vibe of old, the panavision anamorphic camera/lenses really give some of those vistas a damn good sweeping panoramic view. So yeah I can see why Tarantino would wanna go down this route with his pet project, it does help the visuals hark back to an earlier era of silver screen westerns, but the fact most of the movie is confined within a wooden lodge renders it almost useless. Sure it all looks classy but you want more than just interiors, facial close-ups and the odd snowy lodge exterior.

For the most part the movie is relatively atmospheric and engaging despite the average acting and rather predictable aggressive hijinks. Admittedly I wasn't overly sure who would die when and where, but I was pretty sure it wouldn't be pretty and not many would come out on the other side. Needless to say the movie completely falls apart (for me) as the finale grows closer and the violence gets cranked up to the maximum. You want pointless, excessive Tarantino violence for no real reason? voila! Innocent people get blown away mercilessly and blood splatters across the cabin floor as heads and nutsacks get both barrels in full anamorphic glory (Cueing the obligatory character stand-off/mown down sequence).

So yet again the hype train pulled out of the station and hit full steam as it powered towards release city, was this worth the wait? no, no it wasn't. This is of course merely my personal opinion but I have found the latest Tarantino flicks to be disappointing and overhyped, and this continues that trend. The whole thing just felt like a young boys childish wet dream, not even a decent western even, why Morricone agreed to score this I'll never know, he is way better than this. The movie is a simple whodunit with little to no originality and peppered with Tarantino trademarks which, apparently, make everything all better. Well they don't, I've seen these trademarks before and its all old hat I'm afraid. Are you still doing the whole chapter thing Quentin?? really??! bloody hell, that's so 90's! I realise the blood, gore and profanity is your trademark Quentin, but seriously? I challenge you to make a movie without any of these things, just try it, you never know, you might be surprised. Oh and how come not one person saw that trapdoor in the middle of the cabin floor??