Watching "The Hateful Eight" is like mainlining pure Quentin Tarantino. All of his best and worst instincts are here - from engrossing dialogue that's sometimes too self-aware, exciting action that's cartoonishly gory, and references to perhaps too many other works, including Tarantino's own.
Oh, and I pretty much love all that stuff.
It's set in the mid-to-late 19th century where the Civil War has ended, but it's hardly settled between the veterans who fought - a key component of the story. The post-war era is especially tough for Major Maurice Warren, played by Samuel L. Jackson, a Union officer turned bounty hunter. He catches a ride with John Ruth, played by a wonderfully whiskered Kurt Russell, who's taking a woman to hang for murder. That's Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue in the movie's best performance, which is really saying something, considering.
When the travelers arrive at a small goods store to wait out a blizzard, they encounter even more colorful characters. They all spend a long time feeling each other out, and Ruth becomes convinced something's up.
Tarantino spends a lot of time unfolding this mystery. "Patience is the name of the game," as one character puts it. And the tension builds to an explosive final section.
There's no hero in this movie. Each of these characters are indeed hateful: murderers, racists, misongynistic monsters all. But they're written so well and played by such great actors that they're always fascinating to watch.
This is a beautiful ugly movie filled with irredeemable characters doing despicable things, but it's filmed gorgeously. While no theater in Lubbock is showing the 70mm film print, the photography is still fantastic. You can almost feel the wind and snow hitting your face.
"Hateful Eight" will be too chatty for some, too violent for most. In other words, it's a Quentin Tarantino movie. It's not his sharpest narrative, and the message he's trying to convey gets muddled in the mess toward the end, which is particularly unsatisfying.
There's a lot here worth discussing, which has always been what I love about Tarantino's movies.