My first movie of the year. And so far the worst. It is identified in the opening credits as Quentin Tarantino’s “8th film.” Two I have yet to see—the ‘Kill Bill’ series and ‘Death Proof’—but the others I have. The verdict: I loved ‘Jackie Brown’, thought ‘Inglourious Basterds’ was a hoot, ranked Django Unchained one of the Top 10 best pics of the year it came out, and did anyone not give the thumbs up to ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Reservoir Dogs’? All this has ergo made me a more or less unconditional fan of Tarantino. After this latest one, I will need to make that conditional. Now I did not downright hate the movie—it merely disgusted me—or get bored or impatient at any point, despite its unreasonable running length of 2 hours 48 minutes (already 20 minutes shorter than the original version), which is without justification. If a movie is going to take up more than two hours of a moviegoer’s time, it should have a good reason to do so. There was none whatever for this.
The problems with the pic: First, it is unoriginal as far as Tarantino films go; stylistically and dialogue-wise, it’s a continuation of Django. Now some of the numerous critics who liked it did find the dialogue and storyline fresh and original. GMAB! We’ve heard and seen it all before from Tarantino. And stripped of the goofy characters, incessant trash talking, and copious use of the N-word, it’s just another Western. Secondly, a certain tedium does set in toward the middle, during which the characters—all unpleasant—drone on with their trash talk (N.B. most of the film is set indoors, in the single room of the lodge-saloon). I successfully staved off falling asleep over some twenty minutes, though felt I wouldn’t have missed much if I had. Thirdly, there’s the violence. One expects violence in a Tarantino film, which tends to be campy, indeed absurd, and not to be taken in the first degree. But it’s on another level in this one and from the outset, and exploding into a pornographic orgy of gore toward the end. And it’s gratuitous, not offbeat, tongue-in-cheek, or at all funny, and gets old fast. Tarantino may be trying to épater la bourgeoisie with graphic scenes of people—including nice, innocent ones, who are introduced in the latter scenes—getting their heads blown to pieces and sex organs riddled with bullets but he’s more likely to turn them off, if not repulse them (as he did me). Fourthly, Tarantino clearly wishes to convey a message about America’s history of race relations but it is not at all clear, not to me at least, what that message may be. And I don’t care about it. Ça n’a pas d’importance. And didn’t he already do this in Django?
In short, ‘The Hateful Eight’ is a nihilistic, pointless film to be avoided by all but the most unconditional Tarantino fans. For pertinent reviews, see A.O. Scott’s in the NY Times (mixed) and Lou Lumenick’s in the NY Post (thumbs down). The film opens in France on Wednesday (I’m presently in the US), where the critical praise is sure to be effusive.
UPDATE: Wow, Le Monde, in its issue dated Jan. 6th, has reviewed the film over an entire page, totally trashing it! Zero stars out of four: On peut éviter (one may avoid it).