Editor’s Notes: The Hateful Eight will be released on its respective home video format on March 29nd.
In The Hateful Eight (Anchor Bay), director Quentin Tarantino presents a Western set in post-Civil War Wyoming during a raging blizzard. Bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is in a stagecoach en route to Red Rock with his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), to deliver her to the authorities and collect a $10,000 reward. On the way, he encounters fellow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) carrying three dead bodies to Red Rock to collect his reward. Ruth prefers to deliver his prisoners alive so they don’t cheat the hangman. Warren prefers them dead. Less trouble.
The two men encounter another, who claims to be the new sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins). The weather worsens and the stagecoach pulls up to Minnie’s Haberdashery, a way station, to ride out the storm.
At Minnie’s are four men: Brit Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), Confederate General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), and Bob (Demian Bichir), who’s taking care of the premises while Minnie is away.
Broken into chapters, the movie spends its first half providing back stories for the central characters. Many are suspicious of one another, with the two bounty hunters especially wary of having their prisoners — dead and alive — stolen for the reward money. Not everyone might be who he claims to be.
Tarantino blends in a bit of Agatha Christie as characters question one another, answers don’t jive, we discover why certain people are there, and paranoia increases.
The second half contrasts markedly with the first, which is driven by sharp, clever dialogue. In the latter half, things turn violent, bullets fly, and men and woman reveal their true, savage selves.
The Hateful Eight is filmed in Super Panavision 70, a technique last used in a feature film in 1966. Tarantino had old cameras taken out of storage, refurbished and fitted with modern lenses. The resulting image is crystal clear, with a 2.76 : 1 aspect ratio — much wider than modern widescreen films. Tarantino is channeling the look of the Sergio Leone Westerns, and the sound as well. The score is by Ennio Morricone (A Fistful of Dollars, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in America), and is showcased in an overture that precedes the motion picture, just the way it was done in 1960s and early 1970s road show engagements.
At just over three hours, the film takes its time letting us get to know the characters. Each is spotlighted in turn and we learn more as that individual is questioned by the others. As their stories either gel or fail to make sense, suspense grows. We know that there will be some sort of showdown, but never figure how things will turn out.
Each actor is excellent, but Russell and Jackson have the meatiest roles and definitely make the best of them. Ruth and Warren have a risky livelihood and are not careless men. They know not to underestimate prisoners or to relax their guard when strangers are around.
Ms. Leigh has perhaps the least glamorous role in movies of the past year. For most of the film, she’s handcuffed or tied up, and incurs the occasional elbow to the face when she acts or speaks out of turn. With her bloodied face and missing teeth, Daisy is a tough broad who would kill a man without a second thought. She’s lethal and isn’t thrilled about facing the hangman’s noose.
Rated R, The Hateful Eight is notable for its dialogue, always one of Tarantino’s strengths. Despite the movie’s length, the dialogue never sags. Both necessarily expository and illuminating of character, it’s often rough, occasionally funny, with an undercurrent of menace. A provocative film, The Hateful Eight draws upon the darkest nature of man but is like no other movie. That is its primary draw. Though Tarantino works within an established genre, he has created an original.
Bonus extras on the 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack include “Beyond the Eight: A Behind-the-Scenes Look”, a 5-minutes overview of location filming; “Sam Jackson’s Guide to Glorious 70 mm,” which describes the road show release along with a short history of road show movie releases of the past; and a feature allowing easy access to all of the film’s 22 main music cues. Also included is a digital HD copy.