Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight is vile art, bludgeoning viewers for three hours with indefensibly gratuitous race baiting and blood.
Of all the words to be typed about this film, the one on a loop in my brain is "unnecessary."
Not only the barrage of n-word threats and insults Tarantino shoves into actors' mouths, or the brutal abuse suffered throughout by Jennifer Jason Leigh's character, the movie's only woman of plot substance. It isn't just the vengeful same-sex rape, or the bloodbath finale, with such distinctly QT touches as castration by bullet.
What's also unnecessary is the grandiosity Tarantino brings to this gruesome shadow of his previous artistic self: Filming in rare Ultra Panavision 70mm with exteriors that are practically shapeless snow white, and only two confined interiors. His incredible, shrinking roadshow plan. The spinning of whims into an event.
The Hateful Eight is sub-grindhouse material blown way out of proportion by its creator's ego. For the first time as a Tarantino fan, the complaints of others are clearer; the excesses, the nasty streak, the hate. The time you realize a previously essential filmmaker won't always be that.
Tarantino's screenplay — profanely agile, as always — lays Agatha Christie's template in Wyoming, several years post-Civil War. Rather than a train or island it's Minnie's Haberdashery, a stagecoach stop turned refuge during a blizzard.
The last coach to arrive contains bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Leigh), already beaten up but feisty, so more's coming. John reluctantly took on another bounty hunter, Union Army Maj. Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a Johnny Reb who claims to be Red Rock's new sheriff.
Marquis visited Minnie's place before, so he's suspicious when greeted only by strangers. Mexican Bob (Demian Bichir) claims to be filling in while Minnie and her husband are away. Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) says he's Red Rock's hangman. Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) doesn't say much at first. Gen. Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), still in Confederate uniform, says even less.
Tensions from the war still simmer, especially with an African-American from the winning side. Marquis' color is the constant focus, with Tarantino's dialogue dropping n-words like punctuation, numbing whatever else is being said. Since it's Jackson, you know Marquis gives as much as he takes, including the movie's pre-intermission atrocity, when some viewers may give up.
Everyone is hiding something, and a few drops of poison in the coffee pot sets off the Hercule Poirot effect of whodunnit and why. The mystery isn't worth the mayhem, erupting in projectile viscera and not ending until the final head is blown clean off.
Contact Steve Persall at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.