I remember watching “Pulp Fiction” on the day it was released. I was in the middle of a road trip out to California and I stopped in a little town somewhere in North Dakota and decided to spend the night just so I could see Tarantino’s latest film. I’d spent my last year of high school forcing all my friends to watch “Reservoir Dogs,” a film I’d discovered on DVD and I was the first in line to see “True Romance” as well. Tarantino was the shit, and I couldn’t figure out why more people hadn’t figured that out yet.
“Pulp Fiction,” unlike “Force Awakens” for example, had me leaving the theater with a spring in my step. That was greatness...perhaps even better due to the fact that nobody else seemed to recognize how great it was. Of course, “Pulp Fiction” would go on to become a phenomenon. The point of all this is that I’ve been a fan of Tarantino for a long time.
So what do I make of “The Hateful Eight?”
Well, I don’t know if I’m getting older, or if the schtick is just worn out, but I kind of wish Tarantino would revisit the tone he used in “Jackie Brown” rather than give us this. My feelings for “Eight” aren’t disappointment exactly, but I’m probably not going to watch this movie again (as was the case with “Django”...I don’t feel drawn to these stories).
Well, they’re kind of nasty. There’s a moment in “Eight” where the always tremendous Samuel L. Jackson baits a confederate general into a gunfight with a story that involves the rape of the general’s son. Yes, I realize this is the type of thing that went on in this historical period...but that doesn’t mean I want to see it dramatized. Add in the fact that this scene isn’t an outlier, but easily fits in with the overall tone of the film and you see what I’m talking about.
How is this different from “Inglorious Basterds?” To crank it back a notch, I think that might be (as Lieutenant Aldo Raine says) Tarantino’s “finest work.” Yes, “Basterds” was brutal, but it was cathartic. Honest to God, I felt a whole lot better about WWII after seeing that because, damn it, that’s the end that Hitler deserved! The whole concept of the film was a risk, but I think the world needed that film to exist. It’s a contribution to our collective mental health as a species.
“Hateful Eight” is just as violent, but there’s no release. The same can be said about “Django.” Slavery, misogyny and race relations seem to be Tarantino’s latest thematic interest, but he’s not “solving” the wrongs of these human travesties as much as he is reveling in them. I, for one, don’t walk away as happy.
All that being said, this is a film that deserves a viewing. There is some really top notch writing, although Tarantino’s quirkiness would have been served by getting reeled in from time to time. Perhaps the guy has gotten too big for his breeches, but if there’s one thing the Prequels taught us it’s that no artist ever outgrows the need for an editor.
It’s great to see Kurt Russell in another Tarantino flick, I hope he continues to get leads before QT finishes up his “10 movies” (put me in the camp that says QT is not going to quit after 10). Samuel L. Jackson is magnificent. He deserved an Academy Award for “Jackie Brown”...probably for “Django” too. But it’s Jennifer Jason Leigh who really steals the show, particularly in the last 15 minutes.
I think Tarantino’s importance has peaked and his movies are trending to the “also ran” status. He might soon find himself once again in the category of directors who produce works of unrecognized quality...which might not be a bad thing. From the get go, Tarantino has always been a filmmaker who takes chances at the risk of looking like a total jerk. You always have to admire that fearlessness. “Hateful Eight” achieves what it aspires to, my complaint is that I’d like to see Tarantino aspire to something better.