In the midst of a Wyoming winter, an infamous bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin inhabited by a group of nefarious characters. Little does he know that all hell is about to break loose…
But I digress, back to the start. Bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is taking notorious murderer Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the town of Red Rock to face justice. Known to his peers as ‘The Hangman’ Ruth won’t let anyone get in his way of delivering his prisoners and collecting his hard-earned reward. The warrant for Domergue says dead or alive but Ruth prefers to sees the job through to the bitter end. But he might just come to regret that.
On the way to Red Rock they encounter a fellow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson). A snow storm has hit and leaving Warren to walk on foot would mean certain death for him. Once Ruth makes it crystal clear that Domergue is his meal ticket, he offers Warren a lift in their 6-horse carriage.
Then they come by another suspicious character claiming to be the new sheriff of Red Rock who goes by the name of Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). Ruth is forced to offer him a lift or he will lose the chance to cash in Domergue for the bounty money. Undeterred, the unlikely group push on.
But the storm becomes too strong for the horses to bear so they stop by Minnie’s Haberdashery, a small cabin on the way to Red Rock. When they make their way inside the cabin the foursome finds that a group of misfits have already made themselves at home. Here they encounter an ageing southern general named Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), a Cowboy loner called Joe Cage (Michael Madsen), a surly Mexican known only as ‘Bob’ (Demián Bichir) and a charmless Englishman named Oswaldo Mowbray (Tim Roth).
Surrounded by unpredictable renegades and completely cut off by the storm, getting Domergue to meet her maker is going to prove to be a much more difficult task than Ruth anticipated. The Hateful Eight are snowed in together like Agatha Christie’s thriller Misery, but at least then we knew who the real villain of the tale was. Tarantino keeps you guessing. Who will come out on top? There’s no way of telling with these bunch of snowed-in desperadoes.
Tarantino ingeniously created enigmatic antihero roles for Samuel L Jackson as Major Warren, the disgraced unionist army officer and suspected war criminal, and Jennifer Jason Leigh as the captured criminal Daisy Domergue, whose smart-mouth ways are bound to get her killed before she reaches Red Rock. It’s also great to see Tarantino veterans Michael Madsen and Tim Roth back on the big screen. But the undeniable star of the movie has to be Kurt Russell in his role as John Ruth. At first I pitted him as a poor man’s Jeff Bridges, but Russell made the role his own. He’s truly maniacal and somehow you end up rooting for the son of a bitch.
The unashamedly lengthy dialogue scenes make Tarantino’s actors come to life, especially Jackson. Just as he did in Django Unchained, Jackson makes his words count and delivers the performance of a lifetime. He’s witty and terrifying at the same.
The Hateful Eight, rather fittingly, marks Tarantino’s eighth movie. It caused a whole lot of controversy when it was announced that because it was shot in a colossal 70mm Panavision print that only a limited number of British cinemas could show it. I was really disappointed.
— Ruth Walker (@RuthlessOnFilm) January 5, 2016
But now that I’ve seen the movie in all its glory I think it would look a little lost on a smaller screen. This is an epic movie; therefore it deserves to be seen in all its magnitude.
The Hateful Eight is mostly set in one room making it intimate yet gigantic at the same time. In true Tarantino style it’s full of those drawn out scenes where the risk of violence and depravity are always just a moment away, bubbling under the surface. And then when the moment finally comes and the violence erupts it’s brutal, staining the otherwise peaceful snowy surroundings a certain shade of crimson.
No one’s better at raising hell than Quentin Tarantino and The Hateful Eight is no exception. It’s brilliantly cast, superbly scored and epically violent. Whether it will receive the same acclaim as Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained remains to be seen.
By Ruth Walker