Tarantino serves up bloody justice in ‘The Hateful Eight’

Rating 3.5/5

In viewing this latest feature from the mind of Quentin Tarantino, it might be safe to say that there is probably not another storyteller quite the same. In saying that, Tarantino is probably an acquired taste to most people. I am always engaged in his unique style and use of dialogue and camera movement. The Hateful Eight is Tarantino’s eighth feature film and holds nothing back. Although, it was a bit different than some of his other films it still delivered despite being a bit more expository through most of the film. All of the elements come together here to bring this Western whodunit mystery to life.

The action takes place in Wyoming during a blizzard where the characters are gathered together, much like an Agatha Christie mystery. Much of action takes place at Minnie’s haberdashery. Passengers from a stagecoach, on its way to Red Rock, take refuge from the brewing storm. Maj. Marquis Warren (played magnificently by Samuel L. Jackson), an ex-Union soldier of the Civil War, a rough bounty hunter John Ruth (a whiskered Kurt Russell), his handcuffed prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason-Leigh), Chris Mannix (a wonderful Walton Goggins), who claims to be Red Rock’s new sheriff, and the coach driver O. B. (James Parks) come in and meets another motley group at the haberdashery like Tim Roth, who plays Oswaldo Mobray, the new hangman of Red Rock, cowboy Joe Cage (Michael Madsen), Bob (Demián Bichir), a Mexican who claims to be keeping an eye on the place for the absent Minnie, and Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern), a Confederate general.

As mentioned, it took a while for the story to really get going but Tarantino’s skillful use of dialogue, camera shots, and suspense building kept the story moving right down to the moment when we find the coffee poisoned, bullets start flying, blood spurts, and finally even a good old fashioned hanging. The way this story is told seemed somewhat reminiscent of Hitchcock and his way of building suspense. And when the story starts to unravel the mystery – BAM – the audience is pulled back and flashes back to the early part of that day before we meet estranged characters from the stagecoach. I was kind of waiting for this part too. In most of his films, he does not use a conventional linear line of storytelling (as this one was beginning to look like). He seems to jump and shift time to bring another sense visual storytelling.

As the flashback conveyed, it tied the story together in an intriguing way. And we finally find out why the characters have to keep nailing the front door shut every time someone enters or exits the building. We are fortunate to meet Minnie (Dana Gourrier), Six-Horse Judy (Zoe Bell), Sweet Dave (Gene Jones), and Domergue’s brother Jody (Channing Tatum) and a few others. The acting was excellent in bringing Tarantino’s words to life in his usual, in your face, entertaining way.

The Hateful Eight was a little different but still had the signs of a classic Tarantino film. That style is not seen often in many of the great visual storytellers of today. His creative mind always culminates in a style that can be pleasing and maybe a bit unnerving at the same time. He may not be for everyone, but he certainly doesn’t let that stop him from bringing his visions to the screen.



‘The Magnificent Seven’ … A classic story retold…again

Rating 2/5 

When Akira Kurosawa’s 1956 film The Seven Samurai was remade into a stirring Western (The Magnificent Seven) and released in 1960, John Sturges directed a fun, colorful, and exciting adventure and one of the great classic Westerns of all time. Although I found the 1960 film version a bit slow at times during the first act, there was enough to keep me interested and entertained. This 2016 Antoine Fuqua directed version kept the story of the original, but with some character and setting changes.

The story begins in 1879 in a small frontier town in Rose Creek. Enter the antagonist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), who is operating a gold mining business, and he comes into town to a church during a service and offers money to the residents for their land. They can take the offer or suffer the consequences. After burning the church and killing a few citizens, a widow, Emma Cullen (Hayley Bennett), decides she isn’t going to accept Bogue’s tyranny. She searches for some men who could help her people stand up to Bogue. She soon meets an officer of the court Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who agrees to help her. The group in this version is much more diverse than in the 1960 original. Chisolm brings on Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a Mexican (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Civil War sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and his Asian pal, Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee). They soon find Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) and a Comanche Indian Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).

Like the original, it had some big names with a few relatively unknown actors in the roles. Washington delivers a decent performance, but it lacked energy and the personality to really care enough about the character. Pratt brought his usual charm and charisma, but the character still remained insufficient to truly feel for the character. The remaining five also failed to provide any real connection. However, Sarsgaard nearly shines as the greedy villain. He provides a performance that makes you want a satisfying character death.

There were aspects I liked about this film, and it had its highs and lows, but it seemed to lack the energy and overall pace of the original. On its own, this film is a decent Western. But viewing it as a remake, it lacks something from the original. I did like the fact that the protagonist (Chisolm) and antagonist (Bogue) had more of a background connection and the bad guy’s demise was a little more satisfying in this version than the original. Additionally, the film had a decent build up as the seven were rounded up and the tension was building until the final confrontation, it didn’t have the same impact as the original. And while the final climactic battle between Bogue and his army of men and the citizens of Rose Creek and the seven was cinematic, it seemed a little more than just the underdog beating the odds and coming out victorious. I wanted to like this film more, but overall, it just didn’t catch my interest as much.

I have yet to view the original source (The Seven Samurai), but with an acclaimed remake in 1960 that spawned three sequels, it hardly seems another remake is needed here.