Sunday, December 27, 2015
The Hateful Eight: Simply Great
After getting shutout of a sold-out performance Saturday, Katie-Bar-The-Door and I drove back down to the AFI-Silver on Sunday to see the eighth film of Quentin Tarantino's illustrious career, aptly titled The Hateful Eight. Tarantino resurrected the long-abandoned Panasonic Ultra 70 film format, the same ultra-widescreen process used on the 1959 classic Ben-Hur (indeed, the film was shot with the same lens used to shoot the chariot race), and for one week only has released it in 98 theaters as an old-school roadshow engagement, complete with overture, intermission and commemorative program.
Just the way they used to make 'em in my childhood.
The story is essentially a three-hour retelling of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None in a Wild West setting. A motley crew of bounty hunters, war veterans, cow punchers, an Englishman with a fascination for the niceties of public executions and a gallows-bound Jennifer Jason Leigh wind up riding out a blizzard in a strangely-deserted general store deep in the trackless nowhere of a very empty Wyoming. They sit by the fire, drink coffee and talk, talk, talk.
And then when the talking is through, the blood and the bullets start flying.
Stripped of the filigree, this is the plot of every Quentin Tarantino movie ever made.
If you know and love Tarantino the way we do, you know you're in for a banquet of ornate oratory, digressions and shaggy dog stories that for someone eager to get to the point I suppose must be maddening. But I'll tell you right out, I like listening to a man who likes to talk and The Hateful Eight stars some of the great talkers of screen history.
Kurt Russell is the bounty hunter determined to see Jennifer Jason Leigh swing, Samuel L. Jackson is another bounty hunter lugging three dead bodies and a letter from Abraham Lincoln through waist-deep snow, Walton Goggins as a would-be sheriff finally gets a big screen role worthy of his silver-tongued talents, Tim Roth as the hangman channels Eric Blore in Top Hat, Bruce Dern is a broken-down Civil War general, and Michael Madsen is a passing cowboy who says he's just headed home to visit his dear old ma.
For such an out-of-the-way place, this deserted cabin starts to seem a bit like Grand Central Terminal. With the emphasis on "terminal."
This is Tarantino, and you know at some point you're going to get a bloodbath worthy of a 1970s horror movie, violence so over-the-top it has an innocence about it, like something a demented preschooler might doodle in his hymn book during a long, boring church sermon. As I put it in an e-mail to my good pal Mister Muleboy, "it's a 3-hour gabfest ... directed by a drunk Sam Peckinpah right after he'd seen John Carpenter's The Thing."
High praise, indeed.
What rating do I give it? Why, an 8 of course.
(8 stars out of 10).