The Hateful Eight

Directed By: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, and Channing Tatum

"You only need to hang mean bastards, but mean bastards you need to hang."
-The Hangman John Ruth (Kurt Russell)

Spend Christmas with someone you hate
.  Now, that's a catchy tagline.  It also rings true right now for some moviegoers spending their Christmas holiday with loathsome family members they avoid the other 364 days of the year.  For police unions across the country, that loathsome person might just be director Quentin Tarantino whose eighth feature film arrives in theaters this holiday weekend (if you count Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2 as one film).  Yes, The Hateful Eight is here.  In his second foray in the western genre following up his 2012 hit Django Unchained, Tarantino offers one bloody affair that lives up to the quote above in every way.  With all the vitriol spewed by his characters throughout this Reconstruction era extravaganza, The Hateful Eight is laced with a plethora of racial epithets and other derogatory terms.  That being said, the prolific director may just be offering a message of racial harmony in the form of one crazy throwback western.  He certainly offers an unsettling view of American society during these turbulent times.

A blizzard is about to arrive in Wyoming, but it's not stopping any of the people on their way to the town of Red Rock.  Bounty hunter John Ruth (Russell), who also goes by the moniker "The Hangman", is determined to make his way to the Wyoming town in order to claim the $10,000 reward for his captive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a murderous member of the Domergue Gang.  John Ruth has paid stagecoach driver O. B. Jackson (James Parks) a handsome amount of money to get him there.  Things get interesting when John Ruth's stagecoach comes across former black Union soldier Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson).  Known as "The Bounty Hunter", he's got a pile of bodies with him that he needs to get to Red Rock for an $8,000 reward.  Given that they've had past dealings and that Warren is a friend of former president Abraham Lincoln, John Ruth finds it in his heart to save Warren's life and give him a ride.

Major Warren and his cadavers aren't the only guests to join John Ruth on his stagecoach to Red Rock.  The group stumbles across southern renegade Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins) as well.  Claiming to be the new sheriff of Red Rock, he weasels his way onto John Ruth's stagecoach.  The motley crew makes their way down the road.  Upon realizing that they're not going to beat this blizzard, they decide to stop at Minnie's Haberdashery for food and shelter through the storm.  There's just one problem, Minnie (Dana Gourrier) and her husband Sweet Dave (Gene Jones) aren't anywhere to be found.  Instead, they'll be spending the next two to three days with "The Mexican" Bob (Demián Bichir), "The Little Man" Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), "The Cow Puncher" Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and "The Confederate" General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern).  All four of these men have business in Red Rock as well.  These hateful eight are going to have to find some way to remain civil if they're going to all make it to Red Rock, especially John Ruth and Major Warren who have bounties to protect.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
.  The Big Short.  The Hateful Eight.  It's like I've died and gone to movie heaven over the last week or so.  Quentin Tarantino is in rare form with his eighth feature film.  From the overture to the intermission to the film's bloody climax, Tarantino focuses on crafting an old school cinematic spectacle.  You can see it in the 70mm celluloid film he uses to create his ultraviolent masterpiece.  You can hear it in the eclectic soundtrack full of selections that set the mood of this raucous affair.  You can feel it in the super rich dialogue pervading this three-hour production that’s deliciously delivered by Tarantino's sprawling ensemble.  Yes, The Hateful Eight is an old school film grandly envisioned and executed in a way that only Quentin Tarantino can.  It's one damn good movie that may just be an instant classic.

What I love about The Hateful Eight is how this mixing bowl of loathsome characters is emblematic of American society, not just back then but today.  Racial tensions are running high in Minnie's Haberdashery, especially with regard to Samuel L. Jackson's Major Warren.  To say that Tarantino puts America's race problem on full display in an unflattering way would be the understatement of the year.  One character claims that white people are only safe when black people are scared to which Jackson retorts that black people are only safe when white people are disarmed.  The N-word is tossed around The Hateful Eight almost as much as the F-bomb is in The Wolf of Wall Street.  In the age of Obama, rampant police brutality, and the utter nonsense that is Fox News, all these sentiments are certainly bubbling up to the forefront of the national conversation on race.  Tarantino doesn't shy away from America’s complicated relationship with those of a Hispanic background either, especially Mexicans.  References to Minnie's Haberdashery once having had a sign that reads "No dogs or Mexicans allowed" certainly don't ease racial tensions within Tarantino's ultraviolent world.  Despite all of the vitriol amongst people having vastly different perspectives and experiences with regard to America, the most unlikely pair does find common ground before it's too late.  Through a film all about spending time with people you hate, Tarantino may just be declaring that there is some semblance of hope (or just the opposite).

If I were to assemble an all-star ensemble with a sprinkling of frequent Tarantino collaborators, the cast of The Hateful Eight would be that ensemble (plus maybe Uma Thurman).  Tarantino's ensemble is firing on all cylinders in this snowy Wyoming-based Western.  For his part as bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren, Samuel L. Jackson caps off what's been a great year for him with a fiery performance full of thunderous dialogue.  The Kingsman: Secret Service and Avengers: Age of Ultron star delivers one nasty bastard in this umpteenth collaboration with Tarantino.  Over the course of the film, you’ll give him credit for being the byproduct of the hate-filled, racially charge society into which he was born.  Just as you think you've nailed down his character, Jackson goes darker and bolder.  Headlining some of the film's best scenes and delivering loads of laughs along the way, Jackson is the man of the hour in The Hateful Eight as black man in a white hell.

Jackson is not the only cast member who delivers the goods in this eighth Tarantino outing.  Kurt Russell is one cantankerous son of a gun as the Hangman John Ruth.  His character may be an arrogant, tough-talking bounty hunter all about his $10,000 reward, but Russell offers us a man with some semblance of a moral code underneath all that bravado.  He's a vile character on screen who likes to watch his bounties hang, but he has some ethics somewhere deep down.  In the context of The Hateful Eight's narrative, it's probably a liability, but it also makes his character rather unique.  In a bloody world full of people gunning for each other's heads, Russell's the one gunning to kill you much slower in the name of “justice”.  Beyond all of this, Russell delivers plenty of comedy with all of his machismo.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the rest of the gang on their way to Red Rock via Minnie's Haberdashery.  Walter Goggins talks serious trash as the southern racist Chris Mannix.  Demián Bichir brings an air of mystery to the film as the rather quiet Mexican Bob.  Tim Roth offers a relative dose of cheer as the suspiciously pleasant Hangman Oswaldo Mobray.  Michael Madsen creates the perfect cowboy with an undeniable swagger as Joe Gage.  Bruce Dern plays one crafty, cranky old man as Confederate general Sandy Smithers.  Finally, Jennifer Jason Leigh steals scene after scene in her outstanding turn as the caustic Daisy Domergue.  Prisoner to Russell's John Ruth, she does her job well in creating a detestable character and an ugly human being who does and says the most terrible things.  All performances considered, Jennifer Jason Leigh offers us perhaps the darkest character of the bunch.

The Hateful Eight
is one incredible cinematic experience.  Don't miss it this holiday season.  Quentin Tarantino's eighth feature film gets a sober rating.  You won't need drinks for this one unless you're spending Christmas with someone you hate.  Happy holidays STMR readers!