For his eighth feature film, director Quentin Tarantino presents ‘The Hateful Eight,’ a gruesome, stylized story about a bounty hunter, his prisoner, and a cast of sketchy characters seeking shelter together in a cabin during a furious snowstorm. The film is making its initial run in a 70mm roadshow format, meaning that the film opens with a three minute overture, and has its 3 hour run time bisected by a fifteen minute intermission. This unusual presentation format is a fun novelty, sure, but it cannot make up for what is ultimately a flawed film.
The first half of ‘The Hateful Eight’ shows tremendous promise; Tarantino crafts a compelling Western filled with paranoia and suspense, witty dialogue, sharp language, and vicious violence. Taken on its own, the first half might even rate amongst the strongest of his works. Unfortunately, the second half of the film is clunky and wrought with extraneous exposition, enough so that the pacing grinds to a screeching halt. This is a three hour movie that would have been much more taut and interesting if drastically cut down to two hours or so.
Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell take center stage as the top-billed actors, and both turn in solid, if predictable performances. It is Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins who steal the show, though, with their over-the-top characters and willingness to come across as unlikable, savage, and ignorant on screen.
‘The Hateful Eight’ is, in many ways, a paint-by-numbers Quentin Tarantino film. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; as a filmmaker, he has a distinct style which appeals to his fanbase. Die-hards should find plenty to love here. The film’s awful pacing is its only major flaw, but in this case, it is enough to make the film unenjoyable to watch.