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Friday, 22 January 2016

The Hateful Eight

(R18+) ★★★★

Director: Quentin Tarantino.

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks.

"You can't make me go to Comic-Con."

TARANTINO’S aptly titled eighth film is most like his first.

A bunch of colourful characters are gathered in one location, each with their own stories and secrets that have led them to that point, each armed and probably dangerous. Things are likely to get violent and blood-soaked as they try to work out who’s working against who.

It could be Reservoir Dogs, but it’s The Hateful Eight. Instead of a gang of thieves hiding out in a Los Angeles warehouse, the leads here are a bunch of misfits that have sought shelter from a blizzard in a Wyoming general store called Minnie’s Haberdashery.

But QT’s eighth is also an opportunity to try some new tricks while still being as Tarantino-esque as ever.

Set shortly after the American Civil War, the film is a western thanks to its setting and collection of bounty hunters, cow punchers and gun-toting scoundrels, but at its heart it is a mystery, or rather several mysteries rolled into one.

But as the story escalates and the blood and bullets flow, its dark sense of humour grows, almost to the point of absurdity. The violence sits somewhere between Python-esque and like something out of a horror movie, and it’s part of the film’s undoing, as it paints itself into an increasingly claret-covered, black comedy corner. The final act can’t live up to what has gone before it, nor can it give a satisfying-enough outcome to the many story threads that have become entangled at Minnie’s Haberdashery. It is bloody good fun though.

The first two acts (or five chapters, as they’re arranged here) are great. As a director, QT is fantastic, but as a writer of dialogue there are few better. In the mouths of Jackson, Russell and co, Tarantino’s words sizzle and keep you entertained in spite of the exorbitant running time (167 minutes) and the film’s stagey, confined location.

In fact, Jackson has never been better. It’s a big call, given that he’s been in over 100 movies across four decades, but this is finest performance. Leigh is also a highlight – she’s an oft-ignored actress who has made a habit of doing an excellent job in thankless roles, but she is a scene-stealer here and worthy of awards.

There are no weak links in the cast. Russell channels John Wayne to great effect, Goggins and Roth get the majority of the laughs, and Tarantino proves yet again that he’s one of the few directors that knows how to get a decent performance out of Madsen.

QT seems like he was having fun putting The Hateful Eight together, a point evidenced by the number of returning actors he uses here. There’s a playfulness and a pointlessness (which is also part of the third act’s problem) that are a welcome change of pace after the historic heaviness of Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds. Don’t be fooled though – this is rated R for a reason and does lull you into a bit of a false sense of security.

Ending issues aside, this is another worthy addition to Tarantino’s back catalogue. While nowhere near as flashy, outrageous or energetic as the rest of his films, it is still a fine example of his way with words and his knack for putting together a great cast.

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