Monday, January 04, 2016

OVP: The Hateful Eight (2015)

Film: The Hateful Eight (2015)
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walter Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Channing Tatum
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Oscar History: 3 nominations/1 win (Best Supporting Actress-Jennifer Jason Leigh, Cinematography, Score*)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 1/5 stars

I don't really care that Quentin Tarantino is more-than-likely insane.  Honestly, I kind of love it.  Actors and entertainers are so hyper-sweet and polished these days that having an admittedly very talented individual like Tarantino out there in the world, completely rocking the internet with views that even I'm not always behind is exhilarating.  He sits there alongside the likes of Lars von Trier and Spike Lee as a provocateur whose filmography can back him up.  After all, this is a man who has made brilliant movies like Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and Inglourious Basterds.  There is no question when you are sitting in a Quentin Tarantino film, and since I was old enough to see them, I've never missed a single one of his pictures.  That was true, of course, for The Hateful Eight, but about an hour into the film I began to regret my excellent track record, and wondered perhaps if Tarantino may need to start backing up his art more before he continues at riling up the collective Twittersphere.  The Hateful Eight is a long, pointless endeavor focused entirely on Tarantino's signature, violent motifs, but it is lacking his sharp wit and panting homage to the likes of Kurosawa and Leone.  Instead what we have is easily the worst film he's ever made, and considering his relatively infrequent pit stops at the movies, the year's biggest disappointment.

(Spoilers Ahead) Where to begin on a review I never thought I'd write (giving a Tarantino film 1-star is a stab in the heart)?  I think I will commence with the first two hours, which could be summed up in about five sentences, which is appalling in a time-wasting way.  We see Jennifer Jason Leigh violently beaten, casual epithets and a long and pointless story about rape played for shock value, and while none of this is particularly out-of-place in Tarantino's world, usually it's met with a sparkling amount of "what will happen next" and incredibly funny and odd dialogue.  That's all missing from this film, which frequently mines the same joke over-and-over again, such as a running bit where the door needs to be nailed shut to not let in the cold air, which could be funny in a Marx Brothers style, but it isn't (even the first time), and not once in the entire run of this gag did the packed audience in my theater laugh.  In fact, that was true for almost the entire movie-despite consistently having moments that are clearly meant for laughter, there were only a few sparing moments of humor that caught on with the audience (usually involving Daisy, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, getting a random aside in at the expense of her captor Kurt Russell) and not once did the entire audience laugh or even react together, unheard of for me in a theater that crammed.

The film doesn't really know anything about pace, and the first two hours move along with literally nothing happening except random characters getting introduced over and over to each other in random circles.  The names are purposefully ridiculous, but unlike other Tarantino films that doesn't really seem to matter-the names just sort of sit there, with the actors who play them not really matching up to the sharpness of the characters.  No one in this film is giving a strong performance, even though Samuel L. Jackson and Walter Goggins have been cited by other critics as good examples of strong Tarantino performances.  You compare this to Jules Winnfeld or Elle Driver or Mr. Pink and suddenly you're realizing how desperately we're relying on the memory of other great Tarantino films to try and justify sitting for yet another forty minutes as we watch a bloodbath endure in front of our eyes.  Quite frankly by the end of the film the main characters, played by Jackson and Goggins, have become such horrid human beings, frequently disparaging the only female character in a way we didn't see them do to any other male characters (sexism is alive and well here), that the fact that we have to watch them be celebrated in the "Lincoln Letter" finale makes me grimace with disgust.  About the only thing that recommends itself is Ennio Morricone's score, but Ennio Morricone could make your broken radiator sound good so that's pretty much the free space in bingo.

The violence itself seems repetitive and uninventive.  Tarantino once again watches a man be castrated onscreen, trying again to play it for comedic effect (but no one is laughing), and the explosive blood that made something like Kill Bill so staggering is now old-hat in his world.  I actually looked away when surprise guest star of sorts Channing Tatum has his movie star mug exploded before our eyes because what's the point of that image without some level of artistry to back it up?  The intensity of the scenes are lessened both because we have done this before, but also because the movie is insanely predictable.  For a director that could once surprise us intensely with his clever scripting (look at something like the "Kiddo" aspect of Kill Bill) there's no surprise you don't see coming.  The fact that Jackson and Goggins win after a pretty lame showdown with the rest of Daisy's gang or that Tatum, the movie star slumming in a supporting role, quickly watches his part disappear before we learn anything about him is something you see coming, and reeks of lazy writing.  Tarantino might have had Last Year at Marienbad or something in a long-and-languid inspiration during the early scenes, but The Hateful Eight is never that profound or captivating.  It's just a bloody, gory bore.

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