The Hateful Eight – ★★★★

SYNOPSIS: In 19th Century Wyoming, gunslinger Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) hitches a ride on a stagecoach with deadly bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his sadistic prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The group end up seeking solitude from a notorious blizzard by staying in a mountain cabin which is occupied by four mysterious strangers. As the storm rages on, each individual becomes suspicious of the other which leads to violent action being taken.

After making a successful venture into the western genre with the Oscar-winning Django Unchained (2013), maverick filmmaker Quentin Tarantino returns to the setting with his deranged, all-star whodunnit The Hateful Eight.

Feeling more like an Agatha Christie story compared to Sergio Leone’s work, Tarantino contributes his usual flamboyant style to this flick which include his excessive use of brutal violence and countless mentions of the dreaded ‘n’ word, the latter of which overshadowed the brilliance of Django. However the film ends up being his longest running to date at almost three hours but fortunately it never feels slow-paced even when the first forty minutes are spent with the stagecoach.

Tensions run high throughout the film and one can’t help but notice the influence of John Carpenter’s sci-fi classic The Thing as Tarantino keeps his audiences on edge in particular moments before his characters eventually take action. All this culminates in a blood soaked finale that has become a given in the filmography of one of Hollywood’s most controversial directors.

But the western theme is still there as the filmmaker gains valuable support in the musical department from legendary composer Ennio Morricone who could well go on to finally land his first Oscar for his mesmerising work. Even more significant is the wonderous cinematography of Robert Richardson as he captures the film in old-school 70mm, something which is definitely worth seeing on the big-screen.

As the title suggests, the characters aren’t particularly likable which is bound to disappoint audiences especially in one middle scene concerning Warren and Bruce Dern’s Civil War veteran General Smithers but despite some of their outrageous actions, they are exceptionally portrayed by their respective actors.

Samuel L. Jackson produces one of his best performances in recent years as the charismatic Warren who plays a pivotal role from beginning to end while Kurt Russell lends aggression as the no-nonsense Ruth, a grizzled man who grows suspicious from the moment he steps into the cabin.

As dim-witted sheriff Chris Mannix, Walton Goggins continues to prove his capabilities on the big-screen with gleeful flare while the likes of Tim Roth and Michael Madsen make welcoming returns to the Tarantino set-up by making their presence felt especially in the film’s second half.

Special mention though must go to Jennifer Jason Leigh as the acid-tongued and vile murderess Daisy. Despite spending a majority of her screentime being attacked and covered in blood, Leigh sparkles amongst her male co-stars and cackles with glee like a demented Wicked Witch of the West.

At times, her treatment from the likes of Ruth and Warren is uncomfortable to watch even if she does deserve the abuse now and again but there are bound to be many female viewers who will complain about those moments. In fact, they’ll be plenty of criticism about Tarantino’s constant use of the ‘n’ word again which continues to attract controversy.

But despite these flaws, The Hateful Eight is a brutal yet rapturous ride that benefits from its setting and whodunnit plot.

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