‘The Hateful Eight’

THERE ARE VERY FEW films that come to mind that justify a running time of more than three hours, so I suppose I must have expected something truly spectacular when I sat down to watch Quentin Tarantino’s latest effort, The Hateful Eight. The Godfather II or Schindler’s List it was not. Instead, I and the rest of the audience were treated to a plodding, bloated film that cried out desperately for some good editing.

The Hateful Eight has an Agatha Christie-meets-Reservoir-Dogs sort of plot involving eight “hateful” people who find themselves stuck together in a haberdashery during a blizzard in post-Civil War Wyoming. It takes, however, at least half an hour before we get to the haberdashery on account of lengthy, clumsy expository dialogue primarily between between Samuel L. Jackson’s Major Warren and Kurt Russell’s “The Hangman” John Ruth, and when we do finally meet the other characters we are treated to more of the same.

The dialogue is some of the flattest I have heard in a Tarantino film. It has none of the humour or memorability of the dialogue in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction and the better lines which punctuate the film are delivered with excruciating hamminess.

I suppose The Hateful Eight isn’t a very bad film. During the interval––yes, I was surprised too––I prayed that something would happen in the second act, and when the film restarted I did think to myself for a few minutes, now we’re cooking. But that feeling was short-lived and when we did finally get to the Big Reveal it was a lazy deus ex machina that did nothing to alleviate my irritation at the protracted build-up.

The Hateful Eight is a film comprising Tarantino’s worst excesses: it’s bloody long, it lacks a good plot and it is abundant in gore. It’s worth noting of course that Tarantino has misfired in the past and pulled himself back: after a lukewarm reception to the not-very-violent Jackie Brown, he returned with the ultra-violent Kill Bill films, which, unapologetically plotless gore-fests but also a demonstration of his skill behind the camera. Then came the O.K. Death Proof, which was followed up by Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, both of which I think are fun films.

I left the cinema with the very distinct feeling that Quentin Tarantino has joined Terence Malick and others in that list of directors who need a good reigning-in. We all know just how brilliant he can be provided there is someone around to say, just occasionally, “No”. I think in the hands of a less self-indulgent director, The Hateful Eight could have been a fun ninety-minute flick. As it is, I don’t believe it merits your time nor your cash.

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