The liberal lamestream medi-a-duh wants you to believe there are only two versions of “The Hateful Eight” available to the American public: An expensive ‘roadshow’ version that’s only available in the kind of Godless big cities where elites make fun of our small town haircuts (our bangs aren’t nearly that crispy, lie-berals!) and a cheap mass release version that — not only won’t be released until later this week — but doesn’t include a program or an intermission or any of the grand bells and whistles awarded to those with ambition or with enough foresight to realize that maybe two tattoos of Spongebob smoking a giant doober is more than enough (I have three. Like all true patriots).
But what the Rachel Maddows, Billary Clintons and Zac Stacys of the world aren’t telling you is that a third version of “The Hateful Eight” exists. An internet only version; a blue collar secret garden for all of us Joe Lunchpail, ham and egger-types who can’t wait a few days to see a movie or even just pay for it. This is the version I watched, and believe me, nothing compares to watching Quentin Tarantino’s, expansive beautifully shot 70mm visuals crudely reduced to fit within the screen of your laptop as its placed on a kitchen table in the dark. Shamefully hunched over in the same position usually reserved for watching another kind of movie (which would probably carry a title like “The Hateful Eight (Inches)”) is the only way “The Hateful Eight” should be watched.
Much like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “The Hateful Eight” is a movie that is really being overrated by its respective fanbase. And like “The Force Awakens,” that rapid critical consensus will be reduced to a more measured and sensible response within the next few weeks. Neither Tarantino’s best nor his worst, “The Hateful Eight” is more Pinter than Peckinpah. An interesting and frequently frustrating experiment that seems better suited for the stage than on an oversized Cinerama styled screen.
Ostensibly based on Tarantino’s weird, newfound love of vintage TV westerns like “The Virginian,” “The Hateful Eight’s” isolated, inhospitably wintry setting, starring appearance from Kurt Russell and a cast of shifty characters who aren’t exactly what they claim to be, seems to imply he was, in reality, doing a revisionist Western take on John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” In the film, Samuel L. Jackson plays a former Union army major now bounty hunter who insinuates his way into the stagecoach of a rival bounty hunter (Russell). Both men are trying to make their way into the town of Redrock for various bounty hunter related reasons (Jackson wants to dump the bodies of three criminals he killed on the local sheriff, while Russell just wants to see his captive charge – played by Jennifer Jason Leigh – hang).
However, a blizzard sidetracks the men into taking cover at Minnie’s Haberdashery a bar/frontier outpost where they encounter craggy men with subfuscous intentions and flappy lips that chit-chat and chatter long into the cold, dark night. An embittered Confederate General (Bruce Dern), an effete British hangman (Tim Roth) and a man with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of neckerchiefs (Michael Madsen) are just a few of these flappy lipped miscreants who may or may not have a connection with Jackson or Russell or even live long enough to find themselves reduced to writhing masses of broken nerves and marrow as they scream through mounds of caked on stage blood in an atypically violent finale.
I feel like a lot of backlash is going to surround this film. Some of it deserved. Some of it completely unwarranted. It’s a difficult film, a self-indulgent film and occasionally, a rewarding film. Shooting “The Hateful Eight” on 65mm film with restored Panavision lenses basically amounts to a promotional gimmick. Although Robert Richardson’s cinematography captures beautifully realized panoramic shots of the Colorado countryside, these shots amount to less than 20 minutes in a nearly three hour movie. Most of the film takes place within the claustrophobic confines of Minnie’s Haberdashery which makes you wonder why Tarantino went through all of the trouble of shooting this stage-bound premise with the same kind of cameras that captured Kubrick’s “Ben-Hur.”
“The Hateful Eight” is also a dialogue heavy film. This could either be a chore or a delight depending on which character we’re spending time with at the moment. If it’s Russell and Leigh, it’s fun watching their odd, antagonist and faintly domestic relationship as jailer and prisoner. If it’s Roth or Madsen, it’s kind of a chore considering that their characters are so underdeveloped. But even a middling Tarantino project is something still worth watching. At one point the characters split up the room after a disagreement as if they were Laverne and Shirley, a running gag involving a door that repeatedly has to be nailed shut plays out in a satisfyingly baroque manner, the second act inexplicably becomes a particularly violent episode of “Columbo.”
After the exhilarating highs of “Django Unchained,” “The Hateful Eight” couldn’t help but be a bit of a letdown. But even as a disappointment, “The Hateful Eight” still remains an angry, politically charged and fleetingly intelligent western.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
“The Hateful Eight”
Starring: Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Weekender Rating: WWWV
Length: 182 min