BY ROGER THOMAS
There is a whole cult following for Tarantino films. If you need proof of that, here is an example.
Tarantino’s new film, “The Hateful Eight” opened in one theatre in Charlotte. For the first three days, it sold out every showing except for one at 10:55 p.m. The only reason the late show did not sell out was because the film is three hours and seven minutes long; this would put the film ending after 2 a.m. Yet, there were still fans that came out even for the late viewing.
I like Tarantino’s work. I have seen most of his films. All of them make me uncomfortable at one point or another. If you are squeamish about bloody violence or harsh language, you probably want to avoid his films. I often wonder if he will ever do a film that receives a PG or PG-13 rating. Probably not.
However, in “Hateful Eight” there is really little violence or blood before the intermission. Oh yeah, “Hateful Eight” starts with a musical “overture” which plays for about five minutes before the film begins and has a 15-minute intermission just like great film epics from the past: “Gone With the Wind,” “Lawrence of Arabia” and “The Ten Commandments,” just to name a few.
There are a number of attributes to praise in this film. As with most of Tarantino’s films, the dialogue is superb. It comes at the audience fast, sometimes even too fast to fully comprehend, but it is always smart and often profound.
The characters are complex and always perfectly cast. Several actors give Oscar-caliber performances even though only Jennifer Jason Leigh is getting much “awards” buzz. I would consider Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell and Bruce Dern as well as Leigh.
Two-thirds of the film takes place inside as the characters are trying to avoid the blizzard happening outside. But before all of them end up in Minnie’s Haberdashery, there is some beautiful cinematography. Tarantino often has an eye for beauty when it serves the strength of the film.
Other trademarks of a Tarantino film are also present: the aforementioned violence, witty dialogue that is often profane, well-cast actors and revealing flashbacks, all of which provide a vivid experience.
One other strength in this and most all Tarantino films is the attention to detail. I often wonder how long it takes the director/writer to create a screenplay. Every simple detail, like a front door that will not stay shut, or a piece of candy that has fallen between the floorboards of the store, all of these things bear meanings, though at the first revealing moment, each seems to be meaningless. Few films have the layers of detail that Tarantino gives his works.
There are also some flaws. The trip in the stagecoach that takes four of the main characters to Minnie’s grows a little tiresome. That section of the film, which is at the beginning, is the weakest part and should have been shortened by 10-15 minutes. Following this segment, the film rarely lessens its pace. However, the conclusion of the film is not quite as fine as the journey. It works, but it could have been stronger or maybe just better if different.
Finally, there are not a lot of profound messages in this film. Some of the other Tarantino films have held more truths or emotional weight than this latest work. “Hateful Eight” is not Tarantino’s best. It is simply a good story, well-told, with a lot of violence following the intermission.
If you like the director’s work, you will be pleased. If Tarantino is not for your taste, you should avoid this film, and most likely any film that follows “The Hateful Eight” from Tarantino.
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.