Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Hateful Eight (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Hateful Eight

Director Quentin Tarantino is never one to inhibit himself, and he doesn't here. His latest outing "The Hateful Eight" is a kind of morality play in the guise of a Agatha Christie parlor mystery with touches of Hitchcock and William Friedkin.

In a nod to the Master of Suspense (specifically Lifeboat) and numerous Westerns, Tarantino pits eight motley characters together in a struggle during the post-Civil War era. To complicate matters, there is a malevolent blizzard that never quits.

Kurt Russell stars as bounty hunter John Ruth in charge of bringing a spiteful and mocking murderess (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to justice along a snow blinding path.

Their carriage crosses paths with another no-nonsense bounty hunter, Major Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a man who has seen his share of racial killing and is a vigilante. After some disturbing and hostile reluctance, the Major is welcomed on board.

The horses stop at Minnie's Haberdashery, a dark and dim general store of sorts with very little inside. There is a  Mexican (Damien Bechir), a hangman (Tim Roth), a mercenary cowboy (Michael Madsen), a wannabe sheriff (Walton Goggins), and a grouchy Confederate general (Bruce Dern).

The main melodrama is whether Daisy (the murderess) will escape and just who hates whom the most. On the whole, the total show stealer goes to Jennifer Jason Leigh who delivers her role with equal sincerity and horror film kitsch. She is rotten to the core and she clearly relishes what she is given.

Under the trappings of an abundance of gore that makes a ten gallon drum of tomato sauce seem a mere thimble, the most meaningful parts of the film are about the malignance of hate and the pettiness of rage.

While Tarantino appropriates directly from "The Exorcist" with Daisy's demonically gleeful face, actor Leigh grounds her anger with energy and the auteur gives just enough weight to narrowly miss complete camp.

A standout is the flawless cinematography by Robert Richardson whose visuals nod to the larger than life films of the 1970s, while making this film feel immersive, individual and off kilter in showing a white yet scratchy world where the gothicism of crosses and pain are everywhere.

Though "The Hateful Eight" illustrates a director up to his old tricks with exploding heads, saturated gushes of blood and spitting racists, Tarantino keeps us guessing with some well handled apprehension. The gunslinging is once more in the Grand Guignol tradition with some ugly people fuming and spitting yet again, but one still can't avert the eyes.

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