The Hateful Eight Review: A Fun Spectacle Made for Cinephiles

Back in 1992, an unknown filmmaker released Reservoir Dogs. It achieved a very high level of acclaim, which it deserved, for being tense, funny, and completely bonkers. Seven films later, that same filmmaker releases The Hateful Eight, a western with a similar feel and structure to his first film. But it’s also one that showcases just how much power Tarantino has as a filmmaker now. His eighth film starts with an overture, has an intermission (which hilariously ends up tying into the plot), and is presented in “glorious 70mm.” Make no mistake, the quotation marks aren’t a dig at the format, because it is in fact glorious, but one at Tarantino’s somehow earned pretension toward cinema’s yesteryear. We don’t question him. In fact, we race to one of the few theaters scattered across the nation participating in the “roadshow” to see his latest work as he intended us to. Is it worth it? Yes and no.

The Hateful Eight isn’t as good as Reservoir Dogs. It’s possible no film Tarantino has made since is. But it is wildly entertaining for all the reasons you’ve come to expect from a Tarantino film. His cast of regulars, both his own and of the western genre in general, all seem to be enjoying the hell out of themselves stuck in a single room for the duration of a harsh blizzard in Wyoming shortly after the end of the Civil War. Each of the titular eight have qualities that make them instantly recognizable as Tarantino characters. Samuel L. Jackson is hardly different as “The Bounty Hunter” than he was in any other film he’s done recently, but what a screen presence. Kurt Russell’s “The Hangman” is a lot of fun too watch too, but it’s Jennifer Jason Leigh’s “The Prisoner” who ends up stealing most of the scenes. Many of the intense talky scenes Tarantino has perfected revolve around her survival, and as the film gets bloodier, the thicker the tension gets.

But at just over three hours, The Hateful Eight frequently delves into the masturbatory. This film may actually be Tarantino at his most honest and comfortable with his audience yet, which is both a good and bad thing. On the plus side, he gets to play with his unique sense of humor more here than any other film in his filmography. This mirroring Jackie Brown as the director’s only true comedies, it ends up being delightful. On the down side, Tarantino takes all the time he wants to tell his story. You can see the spots where the fat can be trimmed that wouldn’t sacrifice his signature style on just the first viewing.

Still, this auteur knows how to entertain, which The Hateful Eight easily does. It may be an onslaught of quick blood baths interrupted by long, intense conversations, but I have to praise Tarantino for making an event out of this one. The 70mm version is worth it for the extra room he gets to play with the frame, not to mention the incredible landscapes. But in an era where going to the movies has become relatively routine, Taantino has made a big, bold spectacle out of it again, which is why he and all of us fell in love with movies in the first place. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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