Thursday, 24 December 2015

THE HATEFUL EIGHT - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Tarantino DeliversThree-Hour, 70mm "Columbo" episode (sans Columbo) in the Old West: Notstupid or awful like Star Wars, mind you, and not as pretentious as TheRevenant.

The Hateful Eight (2015)
Dir. Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth,
Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demián Bichir, Walter Goggins, Zoë Bell,
Channing Tatum, Dana Gourrier, James Parks, Lee Horsley, Gene Jones,
Belinda Owino, Keith Jefferson, Bruce Del Castillo, Craig Stark

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I've loved every Quentin Tarantino movie since Jackie Brown. Though I much prefer The Hateful Eight to his overrated first and second features Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, I'm still not quite feeling the love I wanted to.

However, if you're going to see it, don't bother with the shorter digital version, and do whatever you can to see his longer 70mm roadshow version (complete with overture and intermission). For all its shortcomings, the picture is clearly meant to be seen on film, on a big screen and with all the old-style showmanship which contributes to its playability.

That said, try finding venues which can actually show the movie properly. Most theatre chains in North America (in Canada you can blame Cineplex), busted the IATSE projectionists' union many moons ago and you might be stuck with pimply ushers pathetically trying to unspool the picture.

I also reserve the right to like the movie a whole lot more on subsequent viewings.

Then again, I equally reserve the right to like it a whole lot less.

So why my mixed feelings? Well, on the surface, the picture has everything going for it. From Robert Richardson's first-rate cinematography to Ennio Morricone's evocative score and Yohei Taneda's stunning production design, the movie is visually sumptuous.

The ensemble cast never disappoints and Tarantino plugs plenty of his trademark smart-ass, deliciously foul-mouthed dialogue into their mouths. The characters are rich and varied for the proceedings as they unfold, though they often feel either archetypal or almost self-referential (to Tarantino more so than his cinematic influences) - taking a few small steps out of the norm, but maybe too small.

As well, whether in the snowy exteriors or warm interiors, compositions twixt Tarantino and Richardson capture both the intricate blocking and when necessary, superlative closeups which create indelible etchings of the myriad of compelling faces.

Is it the structure?

Not necessarily. I was pleased enough with the literary conceit of chapters to break the action up.

Is it the story itself? Well, as it tells the tale of two bounty hunters with diametrically opposed approaches to securing their quarry who, along with a variety of miscreants, all find themselves snowed in at an outpost on the trail to the next town, there's nothing especially wrong with it.

Though there's a lot more about it that should be right, but isn't.

Kurt Russell's John Ruth prefers to take 'em alive so his prisoner can go to trial and suffer by hanging, while Samuel L. Jackson's Major Marquis Warren has no time for such style - he shoots 'em dead, collects the bodies and dumps them in the hands of the law to collect his dough - no muss, no fuss.

Ruth's baggage is the bounty named Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a vicious, slovenly killer who feels close to the real-life Calamity Jane (the less-than-charitable Jane with weather-beaten face, stringy unwashed hair, a borderline psychopathic personality, manly features, obsessive characteristics and a history of poverty, dalliances with prostitution and a general illiterate, inbred, cracker barrel demeanour). This is all well and good. Jackson's saucy speechifying and Russell's incessant habit of belting Daisy in the face, are not without merit.

Where the story disappoints somewhat is that it's essentially a mystery with various members taking on roles as "detective" while others gum up the works as they're clearly not who they purport to be. On the plus side, every single character is a total scumbag. This is just fine, since many of them are damn entertaining and kind of likeable. (Bruce Dern is a favourite of mine in the movie and made me long for a Tarantino picture with him as the main character.)

It's the mystery itself which seems by rote. We know mysterious shit's gone down and that sooner or later we're going to get to the bottom of it. Unfortunately these almost procedural qualities are what tend to bog the picture down and the "ride", so to speak, along with various twists and turns feel so de rigueur that our attention span tends to wander amongst the unwieldy length of the piece. We're never especially interested in the mystery and oddly, it feels like a huge weight that hangs over everything. The mystery needs to be dealt with, but that's all it feels like. It's major a drag upon the eventual explosions of over the top violence and Tarantinoesque nuttiness.

The film also has an extremely rich subtext dealing with post-Civil-War America, but it often feels like it gets short-shrift by way of the overly-plotted aspects of the mystery itself which ultimately, is hardly that complex, lopsidedly feeling like the be-all-end-all of everything.

This is by no means a bad film, but the fact remains that it is fraught with longueurs applied to elements far less interesting than the subtext. To be bored during a Tarantino picture seems vaguely heretical, but boring it often is and no matter what engaging trappings are attached to the proceedings, we find ourselves impatiently gazing down at our respective time-pieces, wondering when the whole thing is going to be over with.

I'll take the longueurs here, though, over those in pictures like Star Wars: The Force Awakens which are ultimately about nothing, whereas the flaws attached to Tarantino's vision at least try to be about something.

I'll accept that anytime.


The Hateful Eight plays in 70mm roadshow in select cinemas and digital everywhere else via The Weinstein Company