“The Hateful Eight” screams “Quentin Tarantino.” Everything that we expect from his films can be found here, including non-linear storytelling, graphic blood splatter, extreme violence, and excessive profane language (especially the n-word). I was surprised that Tarantino followed up his popular “Django Unchained” with another Western, but this story remains unique while maintaining his signature style. Anachronism abounds as the soundtrack and dialogue vary between old-fashioned Western and modern times. One of the biggest contrasts from “Django” is that this story does not involve slavery. It does portray a ton of racism to set the tone of its post-Civil War setting, but the non-slavery content makes the number of n-words seem far too excessive, as if Tarantino is just seeing how far he can push the boundaries and still have an audience. One of the least audience-friendly aspects of this film is its nearly 3-hour runtime. It is a cumbersome story but it feels like this amount of time is necessary to allow the events to properly unfold and then reveal additional details through a flashback. The story is driven by dialogue (until the signature bloodbath takes place) and I was surprised at how much it drew me in. The film offers great performances by Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern, but Jennifer Jason Leigh has been generating all of the buzz. Her gritty performance is memorable but I’m still not sure that it was good enough for an Oscar nomination. Interestingly, a miscommunication led to Russell accidentally destroying an antique 1870s guitar (instead of the intended prop guitar that was to be swapped in), resulting in an authentic reaction from Leigh in the final cut. The movie is beautifully filmed and Ennio Morricone’s first Western score in 34 years continually sets the tone for each scene. With such a prolific career (and no Oscar wins), it seems inevitable that he will receive an Oscar for this film even though the actual score is not my favorite of 2015. The unpredictable nature of the film makes its ending a real treat. Especially when you are left to ponder what someone will think when they stumble upon Minnie's Haberdashery following these events. Unfortunately, I think that “The Hateful Eight” could have been just as impressive without shock-value language and its brief (but disturbing) sexual content. I wouldn’t recommend this film to anybody who doesn’t want to see a person’s head get blown off or deal with three hours of swearing, but it might just be worth meandering through all of the smut to experience such an interesting story.
[Pictured: This is a long film but the ensemble cast (Russell, Leigh, and Dern seen here) make it worth watching]