Quentin Tarantino decided to go all whole-hog with “The Hateful Eight.” It opens with an overture. Interrupts with an intermission. Stretches the thing out to three hours-plus.
Sa-a-ay, just who does he think he is? David Lean?
Nah. Sergio Leone is his polestar for this one.
See there? It’s Samuel L. Jackson in the lead role of Maj. Marquis Warren looking like the second coming of Lee Van Cleef. Same flat-brim black hat. Same curved-stem pipe. Similar gunfighter glare.
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And hear that? It’s Ennio Morricone providing the music. You just know that the world’s most famous former video store clerk has watched “For a Few Dollars More” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” a time or two … thousand.
Like Van Cleef’s Leoni characters, Warren is a bounty hunter. The time is after the Civil War and Warren, a battle-hardened Union veteran, is hitching a stagecoach ride in a blizzard. Aboard is another bounty hunter, John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell, elaborately mustached), chained to his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh, outfitted with rotted teeth and a major black eye), whom Ruth is taking to the town of Red Rock to be hanged.
The coach stops to pick up another hitchhiker, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a Confederate army vet, and the conversation quickly turns to race relations in the no longer dis-United States. It goes something like this: “Blah, blah, blah, N-word, blah, blah, N-word, blah, N-word, N-word.”
Tarantino has had a long and problematic history of the use of that word, extending all the way back to “Pulp Fiction.” It reached its apogee, until now, in “Django Unchained.” Its use, and overuse, is Tarantino’s way of proving what a non-PC bad boy he is.
The historic context of “Django” and “Hateful” explains its use, and the fact that those who utter it end up killed, I suppose, is intended to excuse it.
After a long stagecoach journey (a tip of the cowboy hat to John Ford there), all arrive at a snowbound mountain cabin occupied by a group of scroungy characters with questionable intentions.
Whereupon, “blah, blah, blah, N-word, N-word, blah,” and who slipped poison in the coffee?
About an hour into the mission it occurs to you: No one’s been shot yet. You wonder: “Hey, what kind of Tarantino movie is this, anyway? Where’s the bloodbath?”
Patience, Grasshopper. Just you wait until after the intermission.
“Blah, N — BANG! — word.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Blood like a river flows.
Yep, we’re in Tarantino territory for sure.
Way too self-indulgently long and way overboard with that N-word.
The Hateful Eight
2 1/2 stars out of 5
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins.
Director: Quentin Tarantino.
Running time: 3:07 in 70mm roadshow format with 12-minute intermission; 2:47 everywhere else.
Rated: R, for strong bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.