The premise of The Hateful Eight is fairly simple. John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) is transporting fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock to, well, hang. Dude gets $10,000 in 1800s money for delivering Domergue to the afterlife, so naturally he’s defensive about his prize. The Hangman is especially wary when he comes across Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Red Rock’s apparent new Sheriff, Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins) with a blizzard nipping at his heels.
The group has to hole up at Minnie’s Haberdashery to avoid freezing to death and meet their companions for the next few days: Bob (Demián Bichir), Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern). The tension is high right from the start as Smithers and Warren shared a battlefield during the Civil War. Mannix still has a reverence for those who fought for the stars and bars. Ruth suspects that someone is working with Domergue and doesn’t trust anyone.
The Hateful Eight is part Reservoirs Dogs, part Django, part the bar scene from Inglorious Basterds. It’s all about sticking these toxic people in a confined space and seeing what happens. Everyone has a secret. Everyone has an agenda.
The mix of past Tarantino makes The Hateful Eight feel like a greatest hits compilation in a way. That’s not a bad thing. It delivers, as long as you know what to expect. It’s Tarantino. There’s blood. A lot of it. There’s all those inappropriate words peppered into masterful dialogue. The sound production and cinematography are fantastic. The sound of swirling wind overhead is a constant, making you feel like you’re trapped in the Haberdashery with all of these lunatics. The mountains and streams of snowy Wyoming (but really Colorado) are gorgeous in 70mm. You really should see this in 70mm if you can. It really looks terrific. Plus, there’s an intermission! Who doesn’t love a nice, timely piss break?
The Hateful Eight delivers one of Samuel L. Jackson’s best performances. Jackson is commanding as Marquis Warren, channeling his fire and brimstone speeches from his Pulp Fiction days. Kurt Russell was made to play the no-nonsense Hangman. Jennifer Jason Leigh is really good as the unhinged Daisy Domergue. The big revelation here is Walter Goggins, best known for his role as Boyd Crowder on Justified. Goggins and his southern fried charm fits right in with the Tarantino regulars.
The Hateful Eight, like any good Tarantino film, is not for the faint of heart. The big theme here is Reconstruction. The wounds from the Civil War are very fresh. The abuse flies left and right as characters spew ugly, ugly things at one another. RACIAL THINGS at that. Did you expect otherwise? Get ready to feel uncomfortable. Even moreso than you felt in Django. There’s the usual dark humor. This is the territory you’re treading into when you walk into this type of film. The Hateful Eight is Tarantino through and through. If that’s your bag, then you’re in for a good time.