The Hateful Eight

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.

hateful-eight-tv-spotHe’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.

Advertisements

Django Unchained

When you go to a Quentin Tarantino film, you don’t expect historical accuracy, or even plausibility.  Instead, you expect a glimpse of Tarantino’s dark, twisted soul.  You expect to see hyperviolence.  You expect a few scenes of torture.  You expect kitschy credits and ’60s vintage music.  You expect uncomfortable, non-politically correct things to happen.  But you also expect crackling dialogue, and unexpected humor found in oddball situations, and a few stunning set pieces that simmer with high-wire tension that builds and builds and builds until you almost can’t breathe.

I thought Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds were terrific movies.  They showed what Tarantino can bring to the big screen.  I was more than willing to take the occasional over-the-top Hitler death scene along with all the really good moviemaking.

Django Unchained isn’t terrific, however.  In fact, I’d say it sucks.  I wouldn’t watch it again, and I wish I had the 2 hours and 40 minutes I spent in the theater squirming at my latest exposure to Quentin Tarantino’s weirdness.  It’s overlong and apparently unedited and, even worse, it’s really kind of boring after you become desensitized to all the blood and guts.  Only one scene, where members of an early version of the KKK debate the quality of the hoods they’ve been provided, has the kind of witty, hilarious dialogue that made Tarantino famous.  But as for the Tarantino hyperviolence — well, prepare to be drenched in it, and in the sickest forms imaginable.  You’ll see great geysering gouts of blood by the gallon.  You’ll see dozens of people blasted to oblivion and screaming in agony.  You’ll see a captured slave torn apart by dogs, slaves whipped and branded, slaves tortured and beaten to death with a hammer.  And you’ll hear the “n” word, time and time and time again.  I kept thinking to myself:  “What’s the point of all of this?”  And I concluded that there was no point, really.

This movie has quite a cast — Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, and Leonardo DiCaprio, among many others — and they turn in good performances, I suppose . . . but it’s hard for me to get past all the violence and the feeling that the movie really somehow cheapens and exploits the entire appalling history of slavery in America.  When I left the theater, I felt like I needed to take a shower.  I also found myself wondering if the fountain of Tarantino’s creativity has run dry, and his only response is to just try to shock.

With the number of recent, real-life hyperviolence incidents we’ve experienced in this country, I also find myself wondering about Hollywood.  Do we really need to make so many movies where corpses could be stacked like cordwood, and the message is that one man with a gun can kill all of his enemies and right all the wrongs by blowing his enemies to Kingdom Come?