The Hateful Eight (2015): 7 out of 10: Quentin Tarantino should really remake The Thing. In fact, he easily could remake it with the cast and setting of this very film. Heck, he already has an incredible Oscar-winning score from Ennio Morricone who has unironically used unpublished excerpts from his The Thing soundtrack in The Hateful Eight’s Score.
He has The Thing star, Kurt Russell. He has an isolated cabin in a blizzard. If the cabin had some dogs outside that started barking when Samuel L. Jackson came near, this would have been a better movie for it. (And it would have let Morricone reuse some his soundtrack from that Kristy McNichol vehicle White Dog that he penned the same year as his Thing soundtrack.)
That the idea above is a bit film geeky and a silly genre switcheroo, which is what one used to hope for from a Tarantino film. This film, however, plays to its Western genre as if it is on rails.
Kurt Russell has a prisoner played by Jennifer Jason Leigh that he is stubbornly bringing in alive. He is convinced (correctly) that one or more people trapped in this cabin with him are working against him to free his charge. The movie threatens to break into a surprisingly engaging Agatha Christie-style mystery. Unfortunately, Tarantino undercuts his own narrative about the time it starts to get interesting.
This being a Tarantino movie, we are awash in an excess of blood, cruelty and racial epithets. Alas, the film simply doesn’t earn them as well as say Reservoir Dogs did. There are some great set pieces that I will not spoil but much of The Hateful Eight reminds me of an old-fashioned three-hour western such as Once Upon a Time in the West, or one of the Dollars trilogy. Seriously, have you sat through one of those films in one sitting in the last twenty years? It can be a slog. This film can be a slog.
All the actors (san Madsen) do a great job. The soundtrack is wonderful. Parts of the movie such as the Agatha Christie bits mentioned above work well. Alas, there are some things that do not work. There is an overlong flashback that takes all the mystery out of the last act. Tarantino’s narration is jarring, poorly done, and unnecessary. The first hour of the movie takes that hour to tell twenty minutes of setup.
Overall worth a watch for Tarantino fans and for Jennifer Jason Leigh’s fantastic performance. But like those three-hour westerns of old, I don’t see myself watching it again.