(Quentin Tarantino, 2015)
Tarantino sells tickets. Meaning Tarantino - ever since his third film, Jackie Brown, at any rate - can do whatever the hell he wants. Self-indulgence wasn't exactly far away from projects like his double movie spaghetti-western-kung-fu-ninja revenge movie, Kill Bill (I & II) or his bizarro cinema-kills-the-nazis WW2 Mission movie, Inglorious Basterds.
With The Hateful Eight he's decided to make an Agatha Christie-style Murder mystery in a locked room. This despite the fact that he is shooting on epic 70mm. In a location set in a blizzard on a stunning Wyoming mountain. In a film that lasts three hours.
Like I said, Tarantino can do whatever the hell he wants.
The titular Eight are gathered together at Minnies Haberdashery, a stagecoach stop which is mysteriously lacking its owners. We first meet a stagecoach, carrying legendary bounty hunter John "the Hangman" Ruth (Kurt Russell rocking a John Wayne drawl) and the prisoner he is taking in chains to hang in Red Rock, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) as they pick up two passengers traveling through the snow on foot, Major Marquise Warren (Samuel L Jackson), who is another legendary bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix, an ex-Confederate Guerrilla and unrepentant racist, who is on his way to his post as new Sheriff of Red Rock. In this opening chapter, the tone of the film is set. Westerns are meant to be slow, but Tarantino takes that to ridiculous extremes. Each conversation is filled with loquacious tangents and long, sometimes brilliant speeches. The actors are clearly loving it, and some fare very well indeed (Goggins, Roth and Jackson best of all), but it feels like another 2 or 3 drafts were needed to find the essential film within this great shaggy beast.
The length and copious dialogue (and a nice Morricone score taken partly from rejected portions of score from Carpenters The Thing) does create tension, but Tarantino partly breaks that with his usual structural playfulness, flashing back to ear lie run the day, showing an event from a different perspective...
Most of this happens after the stage arrives at the haberdashery and there encounters four men, waiting out the storm. Both Warren and Ruth believe at least one of them is an accomplice of Daisy's, set on freeing her, and of course, they are correct. But it takes two more hours of those long speeches and anecdotes for the whole thing to resolve itself in some hilariously graphic (and surprisingly uninspired) slo-mo and spluttery violence.
There are a bunch of great moments, a few big laughs, and lots of great acting (or at least great line delivery), but throughout I was thinking how Delmer Davies or Budd Boetticher would have told the whole story, better, in about 82 minutes.