Back in 2007, Quentin Tarantino announced that would he would attend a screening of his new film Death Proof at the Glasgow Film Theatre and on hearing this news I immediately booked a ticket and later enjoyed both the movie and seeing the director motormouth his way through a Q&A afterwards, even if he did have the occasional problem with Scottish accents.
So yes, I am a fan but no fanboy, in fact, I reckon he can veer towards being a bit of an arse at times.
For The Hateful Eight, I head to my local Odeon, where there’s no Tarantino in attendance and as this venue certainly isn’t one of those selected for his 70mm Ultra Panavision Roadshow, there’s no programme, no intermission, a slightly shorter runtime and digital projection.
Rather than shooting on film stock deliberately scratched and discoloured to echo the effects of scuzzy 70s grindhouse cinema as he did on Death Proof this time round Tarantino has decided to employ 70mm Ultra Panavision, a vintage widescreen format not used since the young Quentin was barely out of nappies. This decision resembles the likes of The White Stripes choosing to record in the analogue only Toe Rag Studios in Hackney and whether it was worthwhile I obviously cannot say although, on my bog standard screening, Robert Richardson’s cinematography, particularly early on, did still look gorgeous and could have been shot by a master of landscape photography such as Ansel Adams.
So, the film itself. Tarantino’s eighth feature is set in the wilderness of Wyoming during the kind of spectacularly wild blizzard that would even put the worst winters of East Kilbride to shame (a snowbound -1 as I left the cinema last night, folks).
In a six horse strong stagecoach, a bounty hunter by the name of John Ruth (Kurt Russell) escorts black-eyed ‘no good murdering bitch’ Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the town of Red Rock, where she is to hang. Ruth is nicknamed the Hangman due to his insistence on always bringing his quarry in alive to face the rope and he is happy to admit when asked if he will watch her death: ‘I wanna hear her neck snap with my own two ears.’
Soon the pair are joined by two stranded travellers, firstly another bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a former Union soldier, who carries a letter from Abraham Lincoln around with him wherever he goes and then Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) who claims to be heading into Red Rock to take up the position of town sheriff – and if Goggins looks familiar then you might remember him as the transgender prostitute in Sons of Anarchy that Tig took a shine to.
That’s half of the hateful eight – there is also the stagecoach driver O.B, who can’t really be classed as hateful although he does get mightily pissed off at one point – and they will double in number on taking refuge in an isolated roadhouse known as Minnie’s Haberdashery, where the plan is to hole up until the weather has calmed down.
The snowstorm, though, is only a minor inconvenience compared to the shitstorm that is about to follow.
The majority of the movie takes place in Minnie’s, although surprisingly the hostess is nowhere to be seen, instead the log cabin is inhabitated by another bunch of marooned travellers: Senor Bob (Demián Bichir) a near monosyllabic Mexican who claims to have been roped into looking after Minnie’s while she is away visiting relatives; a dandyish and supercilious Englishman named Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) who is an actual hangman; Sandford Smithers (Bruce Dern), a bitter former Confederate general and Joe Gage, who is played by Michael Madsen and therefore obviously a badass.
All the director’s trademark touches are on display here – visceral violence, verbal jousting and humour, twists, cinematic references, non-linear storytelling and serpentine plotting.
There is also the reappearance of the word nigger, bound to cause controversy among those who believe that fictional characters should not be allowed to speak as a writer envisaged and that no one should ever be offended.
There’s no scene packed with the tension of the shot of adrenaline to Uma Thurman’s heart in Pulp Fiction or the cloaked menace of the interrogation by Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds and, of course, this being Tarantino, the movie also verges on the self-indulgent at times although its good points far outweigh any negatives.
The storyline is never predictable and there are a number of stand-out performances from a fantastic ensemble cast. Jackson, as ever, is superb with Tarantino dialogue but maybe best of all is Jennifer Jason Leigh, a performer I hadn’t seen acting in over a decade. She is sensational here as a witch-like villain, who is abused terribly by Ruth and others as she snarls, spits, cackles and curses. Her reaction as Ruth projectile vomits blood over her face is priceless, the funniest thing I’ve seen on the big screen in a long, long time.
Okay, I admit I sometimes have a childish sense of humour.
There is also a fantastically brooding score supplied by Ennio Morricone that has been partly recycled from sections of his highly evocative music for John Carpenter’s The Thing (which also starred Kurt Russell) and also from Exorcist II: The Heretic. One critic has called it Morricone’s masterpiece but they have obviously never seen Once Upon a Time in the West. The Hateful Eight additionally uses other music such as the aforementioned White Stripes with Apple Blossom and Roy Orbison singing There Won’t Be Many Coming Home over the end credits.
It is a testament to the talents of Quentin Tarantino that while I wouldn’t consider this as a contender for the tag of his best film, it’s still a great watch that never for a moment strays into the realms of the dull and is easily one of the finest films released in the course of the last twelve months.
For more on the film visit the official site.