Monday 25 January 2016

REVIEW: The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight is an unnecessarily violent, grotesque and offensive film; in other words, classic Tarantino. An undeniably talented, if arguably overrated filmmaker, Tarantino has developed such a recognisable style that there's a risk when seeing a new film that you know exactly what you're going to get. Following up the excellent Django Unchained with another western was a questionable move. Making it a mystery story, though, is a triumph, bringing a new element to the same set of themes and stylistic tics and giving everyone a reason to keep watching, other than wondering who'll be the next poor sucker to get his head blown off.

The Hateful Eight works as a follow-up to Django Unchained, dealing with the same themes of racism and the North/South divide, but will inevitably suffer from comparisons to it. It's a fine film, expertly done, but Django was one of Tarantino's best and it's going to be very difficult to top it. Indeed, at one point in its early treatment, The Hateful Eight was intended to feature Django, and while it's easy to see why this idea was dropped, there are shadows of the character here in the two bounty hunters who first enter the story. Kurt Russell's John Ruth and Samuel L. Jackson's Major Warren are distorted afterimages of Christoph Waltz and Jamie Bell's King Schultz and Django. There are no heroes in this film, only the innocent and the villainous, and these two initial protagonists are merely the least awful of a crowd of utterly abhorrent individuals.

It's an impressive cast, with Russell and Jackson standing out, as well as Jennifer Jason Leigh as the murderous Daisy Domergue. She's revolting and mesmerising by turns, sympathetic yet despicable. As Ruth's bounty, she's the centre of the film's slight plot. While it's a mystery story, this enclosed drama, primarily confined to a single room, is concerned more with the interaction between the vicious, hate-filled characters and their shifting web of trust and distrust. Of the less prominent characters, Oswaldo Mobray stands out thanks to Tim Roth's hilariously toffee-toned flamboyant performance.

Set some years after the American Civil War, The Hateful Eight is concerned greatly with lingering hatreds, in particular between the various splinters of the Union and Confederate armies. As such, it will doubtless resonate more with American viewers, whose dark history is being dissected onscreen, but the theme of ongoing feuds translates to any nation. And while it is, as expected, extremely violent, it's not as over-the-top as some previous Tarantino films (save one particularly in-your-face moment). In fact, the most upsetting scene involves a graphically described male rape, one that probably never happened but that serves to incense the certain characters. I could have done without it, but it serves its purpose in the story. It's a story of violence begatting violence and how everyone pays for this in time. With a Morricone soundtrack.

No comments:

Post a Comment