Pulp Fiction is a great movie. In my view, so is Reservoir Dogs. I thought Inglourious Basterds was pretty good, and the Kill Bill duo were interesting and entertaining films, too. Those movies made many of us willing to go to any Quentin Tarantino movie, just to see what he’s come up with next.
The Hateful Eight isn’t a great movie, however. It’s not even close. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to think of a movie that I found more affirmatively offensive and unpleasant to watch. And when Kish and I left the theater yesterday, I decided that I’m done with Quentin Tarantino movies.
He’s still got a huge amount of talent, there’s no doubt about it. He can bring slow-building, eventually unbearable tension to a scene better than just about any other living director, he’s still got the ability to inject quirky humor into movies in unexpected ways, and the photography and staging of some of the scenes in The Hateful Eight — especially in the first part of the movie, when a stagecoach is moving through snow-bound Wyoming sometime in the 1870s — is terrific.
But Tarantino has, I think, gotten lazy. He comes up with a good setting and idea — a bounty hunter taking a fugitive to a town to be hung when a blizzard makes him stop at a way station filled with mysterious strangers — and won’t do the heavy lifting to get the idea into a tight, taut script. So you end up with what The Hateful Eight is: an exercise in hyperviolent shock theater, where Tarantino seemingly has simply dreamed up new ways to push the boundaries of Hollywood films beyond the breaking point.
(Don’t read this paragraph if you plan on going to The Hateful Eight don’t want to have some of the plotlines spoiled.) So filmgoers are bludgeoned with constant use of the n-word. They get to see a woman punched out repeatedly. They have to watch a naked man performing oral sex on a bounty hunter in a snowy Wyoming field. They see a dead man’s arm chopped off so a woman who is chained to him can make it to a gun. They witness a woman being hung, kicking and twitching, from the rafters. And they see just about everyone who appears in the film die a horrible death, some by poison that makes them vomit up enormous gouts of blood but most by just about every type of gunshot wound — including pistol shots that make their heads explode, shotgun blasts that spray red chunks of flesh toward the screen, bullets that blow off their gonads, and every other form of gunplay that a disturbed mind could concoct. The film ends with the two wounded survivors soaked in gore and surrounded by carcasses — and, for me at least, a sense of immense relief that the killing and racist language and other unrelenting unpleasantness would finally, blessedly, stop.
Maybe there’s an audience for this kind of stuff, and I am sure that some apologists would argue that Tarantino’s staging of death after death after death shows deft camera work or pays tribute to Hitchcock or Sergio Leone or some other famous director, but don’t be fooled. This is a sick and appalling movie made by someone who’s resting on his laurels and apparently needs a payday. It’s too bad that a really good cast — including Kurt Russell, one of my favorites — wasted their time on this dismal effort.