The Hateful Eight (2015) (R)

Some directors and writers  have experience penning stage plays, and some do not. To my knowledge, which is incomplete as has been called to my attention multiple times, Quentin Tarantino has not written any. Yet, if anything, "The Hateful Eight" belongs on some ratty community theater's stage as an undiscovered but not completely satisfying gem that you watching with your ex some twenty years ago and not on the big screen.
Everything in the movie screams of love poetry to cinema. From the cliche crucifix that virtually opens the film (setting the tone for just how irreverent the movie will become) to the fog billowing from characters' mouths to the sets themselves—the movie was made by someone who loves film. I draw the distinction here between film and cinema because it is very clear in a world rapidly turning digital that Tarantaino is no fan of the revolution. This is a man who has said that he would rather stop making movies than shoot digitally. Okay, what does that have to do with the self-billed "Eighth film by Quentin Tarantino" should probably realize this from the credits when it lets the audience know it was filmed it Ultra Panavision 70.
For the most part, this adoration of the glory days of 'film' works. The movie looks absolutely fantastic. Robert Richardson's cinematography captures the desolation of a wintery Wyoming perfectly. Yet keep this distinction between Tarantino and what we might call "the block-buster" movie in mind as the movie continues.
The set up is both simple and elaborate. Simple because you only have a handful of characters confined in one place; but complex because with each scene our perspectives of these characters change. As they round out each other—which takes almost an hour—it seems like all of these men, and a woman, fulfill some aspect of 'justice' which Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) explains somewhere in the middle of the convoluted plot.
I don't really care to track down the semantics of the plot, or really discuss anything about the characters themselves. Obviously, they are harsh, vibrant, stereotypical, and unexpected—we have come to expect nothing less of Tarantino. What interests me more is the rage that builds up in the film and the direction in which it is released, and I will attempt to do so with no spoilers.
I had the same problem with "Birdman" two years ago (has it really been two years?). There seems to be a disconnect between movies that are designed to make you entertained (read: the Marvelverse) and movies that are designed to make you think (see: Terrence Malick). Unlike most "high-art" directors, people like Tarantino seem desperate on fusing the two and horribly angry when it doesn't always work out the way they wanted it to.
Now, "The Hateful Eight" has had its fair share of drama regarding the release. The script was leaked and then Tarantino claimed he wasn't going to film the movie and then, no doubt from the hands of the Weinstein Company with cash in front of his nose, recanted and filmed it.
The figure to watch here is the one who is chained to Kurt Russell's portray of John Ruth's hand. The woman is named Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and she's a bad girl. Or, at least we're told this by all the cast. Yet this woman is one we never really know anything about besides voyeuristically shuddering when she, scene after scene, has the crap beaten out of her. Does she deserve this treatment? It's possible, but then again, what if this was all a critique on the criminal justice system?
Tarantino's want to be a pioneer for black people is oddly confused coming on the back of "Django Unchained" in this post-Civil War Wyoming. He presents Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson once again proving that he can actually act) as a soldier for the North, riding out the vengeance of a racially unequal United States. So what happens isn't actually pro-active or productive in anyway. But maybe it wasn't meant to be, and maybe I'm reading to much into this.
By the end of the film, the novelty has worn off. I no longer cared for the heist-like Agatha Christie meets Wes Craven layout. The film builds to a rapid crescendo, ironic considering it's almost three hours long, and then collapses without so much as a whimper. In place of a coherent ending, Tarantino's rage a his own inadequacies becomes manifest as the voyeurism of brutality steps up once more and we end with a character saying "That's a nice touch." It's not a so subtle way of Tarantino patting himself on the back, and though I loved this same self-aggrandizing in "Inglourious Basterds", here, it doesn't feel worthy.
"The Hateful Eight" spins a clever tale for forty minutes inside a three hour movie. The rest is just flashy nonsense, gut-busting and washed up dreams of better movies.
That being said, off-kilter Tarantino is still pretty great.

Score: ★★½

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