Combustible Celluloid
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With: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks, Dana Gourrier, Zoe Bell, Lee Horsley, Gene Jones, Keith Jefferson, Craig Stark, Belinda Owino, Channing Tatum
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity
Running Time: 187
Date: 12/24/2015

The Hateful Eight (2015)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The 'Eight' Show

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Like Federico Fellini did with his eighth-and-a-half film, Quentin Tarantino has named his eighth film after itself, although, with The Hateful Eight, he has significantly less to ponder.

Whereas Fellini explored his own artistic impulses and insecurities, Tarantino simply pays homage to the "roadshow" releases that culminated in the 1950s. Like those releases, the full-length, three-hour-plus version of The Hateful Eight includes an overture — with a delicious new score by Ennio Morricone — and an intermission.

But at the same time, it has a story that could have come from a half-hour episode of any television Western of the 1960s, focusing on just a handful of characters in two main locations.

It begins on a stagecoach rattling through the snow. The passengers are bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his bounty, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who already sports a black eye. They are on their way to Red Rock, but a storm is fast closing in.

On the road, they encounter another bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), and, later, the newly appointed sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). The characters know each other by reputation, and there is much conversing.

The storm catches up, and they stop for shelter at Minnie's Haberdashery. More colorful characters await, played by Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demian Bichir, and Bruce Dern.

Many of these folks are up to no good. Some of them are lying about who they are, and some are biding their time before making a move. Eventually someone poisons the coffee. But whodunit?

The presence of Madsen and Roth in a one-room pressure-cooker calls to mind Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, and the filmmaker offers flashbacks and a surprise twists courtesy of that film, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown.

But all in all The Hateful Eight is less surprising than those early films. One thing is forever certain: at the end will be a violent showdown, and the movie climbs inexorably toward it.

Yet the film's structure is much tighter, and more tightly-wound, than Django Unchained, and it's a great deal of fun. The limited space and set design inspires expert staging and composition, with each of the characters filling the frame in his or her own unique way.

The character's chatter is smokily rhythmic, words spilling and swirling — or holding — just for the mere pleasure of the sound of it.

But the immense scale of the picture doesn't seem to be used for any particular purpose; it could easily have been a crackling small package like Reservoir Dogs, — a movie that, instead giving us everything plus the kitchen sink, left us wanting more.

Anchor Bay's 2016 Blu-ray release includes absolutely stellar picture and sound, perhaps due to its having been shot on 65mm film. Extras include a 5-minute studio-produced EPK, which does include a brief Tarantino interview. It also includes "Sam Jackson's Guide to Glorious 70mm," an 8-minute explanation and celebration of "roadshow" movies and the large scale. Perhaps the coolest extra is the ability to jump to any musical track in the movie.

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