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The Hateful Eight retreads old territory

By TIM FREBORG | February 11, 2016

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Georges Biard/CC-BY-SA 3.0 Soon after the release of Django Unchained, Tarentino revisits old territory with another Western.

If there is one thing that Tarantino is known for beyond his love of gratuitous violence, it is the diversity of his creations. The man has directed everything mafia dramas to spaghetti westerns to kung fu flick homages and infused his personal flare into each. It is almost out of character to see him retreading familiar territory, especially so soon after Django, with his recent release The Hateful Eight.

Set once again in the Old West, The Hateful Eight follows the story of a band of bounty hunters, rogues and peacemakers as a blizzard forces them to seek refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a lodge on the road.

Among those at the lodge are Marquis Warren (Samuel Jackson), a former soldier turned bounty hunter; Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), former Confederate turned sheriff; John Ruth (Kurt Russel), a bounty hunter known for taking marks alive just to watch them hang; and Daisy Domergue, Ruth’s most recently captured bounty.

Yet these four are not alone at the Haberdashery, as they draw the attention of several other lodgers. Ruth, wanting to make sure his bounty lives long enough to see her hanging, allies with Warren to ensure the other lodgers don’t violently seize the opportunity to cash in.

Yet as tensions mount at the lodge, people begin to be murdered one by one. The only issue is, no one knows or at least no one seems to know, just who is doing the killing.

Those familiar with Tarantino’s past works will notice an elephant in the room right from the film’s offset with its setting. From its location to its characters, The Hateful Eight definitely takes a few notes from Django Unchained in its execution. In fact, it would likely be fair to argue that Eight more closely parallels past works of Tarantino’s since Kill Bill Volume 2.

While it would admittedly be easy to simply write the film off as a simple retread, what this film does change works extraordinarily well.

In fact, if it weren’t for the filmmaker’s typical gratuitous violence spattered throughout, it would almost be difficult to tag this film as a traditional Tarantino film. It has many more quiet moments, a true sense of actual dramatic tension and a much slower pace than his typical fare.

The film unfolds like a classical mystery rather than a guns-blazing standoff. There is definitely more Clue than The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. In this sense, the film plays itself straight more than anything else, following a traditional style of mystery film progression, from its gradual escalation to its twists.

Yet despite its relatively safe, traditional narrative, it’s the characters that really give Eight the flair it has. There may not be an actor alive who understands how to bring a Tarantino character to life the way Samuel L. Jackson does, and his performance here is as excellent reminder of why we enjoy him so much. Equal parts bombastic and cold, sinister yet subtle, his performance stands firmly at the top of the class here.

However, despite his performance’s strength, it does feel as though it plays itself a little too safe.

Much like other typecast actors, such as Johnny Depp in a Tim Burton film or Robert Downey Jr. in any film he’s ever been in, there’s little fresh or new in Jackson’s portrayal of Warren. It is simply what we have come to expect. No more, no less.

Acting aside, however, what audiences really want to see are those well-known, gluten-free, organic, quintessential Tarantino-style bloodbaths and fortunately, the film certainly finds time amid its slow-paced drama to give audiences some truly glorious action. The filmmaker proves once again that, over the top violence aside, he really knows how to film intense fight scenes.

With cinematography and camera work that keeps the action flowing both quickly and fluidly, he makes sure that every push, punch and shot counts. While admittedly gratuitous in many respects, it’s true to the flair fans have come to expect from the filmmaker (besides, it does restrain itself from reaching Kill Bill levels, at the very least).

In all, for both longtime fans and newcomers to the Tarantino style, there is ironically a lot to like with The Hateful Eight. While definitely nothing new, and even a bit too safe in many respects, it works as a suitable entry point for these kinds of films, having just enough edge to appeal to longtime fans, while remaining traditional enough for the uninitiated or even those who dislike these kinds of films to find something to enjoy.

If the chance arises, The Hateful Eight is definitely a film worthy of a little love.

Overall rating: 8.5/10


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