[Screen It]


(2015) (Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell) (R)

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The following is based on the longer, 70mm, 187-minute version of the film (which is what was shown to us for review purposes and includes a several minute overture at the start and a 12 minute intermission). A 167-minute version is also being released (without the overture or intermission), but the studio did not list what else was cut from the film.
Western: A number of people with nebulous and conflicting motives end up holed up in a remote, mid 19th century Old West haberdashery during a blizzard.
It's post Civil War Wyoming and bounty hunter John "The Hangman" Ruth (KURT RUSSELL) is traveling through the snowy environs in a stagecoach driven by O.B. Jackson (JAMES PARKS). Inside with John is wanted murderer Daisy Domergue (JENNIFER JASON LEIGH), and he's not only determined to watch her hang in Red Rock, but also to collect the $10,000 bounty on her head. Thus, when they come across former Union cavalryman Major Marquis Warren (SAMUEL L. JACKSON) standing in the middle of the road with no horse and a pile of bodies, John is understandably suspicious. After all, he knows the major is also a bounty hunter, but Marquis states his several body haul is also worth thousands and isn't interested in Daisy.

John reluctantly allows the major onboard, but as they head through the fast approaching blizzard, they're both suspicious of a third man, Chris Mannix (WALTON GOGGINS), who they likewise encounter standing in the middle of the snow-covered road. He claims to be the soon to be sworn in sheriff of Red Rock whose horse suffered a broken leg, and while John and Marquis don't really believe any of that, and the major doesn't like the fact that the man's Confederate family was known for killing black people and this guy's an obvious racist, the fact that he could be telling the truth about his new position means they let him onboard, albeit at gunpoint.

They're headed for Minnie's Haberdashery, a remote outpost run by Minnie Mink (DANE GOURRIER) and Sweet Dave (GENE JONES), with the help of Six-Horse Judy (ZOE BELL) and a few others. Unbeknownst to those in the carriage, their arrival has been preceded by a quartet of men -- Bob (DEMIAN BICHIR), Oswaldo Mobray (TIM ROTH), Joe Gage (MICHAEL MADSEN) and Jody (CHANNING TATUM) -- who've stopped there and found an old Confederate officer, General Sanford "Sandy" Smithers (BRUCE DERN), already there. When John and others then arrive, tensions rise as he and Marquis become increasingly suspicious that one or more people there might be intent on harming them and freeing Daisy.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
Iíve long said I wished writer/director Quentin Tarantino would make a PG or even G rated movie. †That could happen from outside pressure in the shape of the purse strings person or people financing his works telling him to tone down his usual hard R rated material, which is not likely seeing how audiences flock to his works. †Or the filmmaker could self impose such a restriction. †

Considering his track record and the sort of films that molded his movie mentality, thatís probably even less likely to occur. †But it would be fascinating to see him try that as he obviously has a knack for terrific storytelling, creating memorable characters, and writing great dialogue for them. †Granted, he recently said he might only make ten films total, so the likelihood of that occurring is just about nil, but one can wish, canít they?

After watching his eighth film, "The Hateful Eight," one might also wish he and his editor, Fred Raskin, were just as ruthless with the total running time as the characters within it are with those around them. †With the limited run, 70mm version clocking in at 187 minutes (complete with a several minute overture and a 12 minute intermission) and the "regular" version most people will see (running 167 minutes), the film isnít edited badly by any means, but itís unnecessarily long and, natch, over self-indulgent at times.

While there arenít any powder kegs attached to damsels in distress tied to railroad tracks in the path of an approaching locomotive, another kind of powder keg is definitely present. †And thatís from a number of unsavory characters being holed up together in a snowed-in, one-room haberdashery in the post Civil War West. †

In a way, itís somewhat akin to the 1939 western "Stagecoach" and it actually starts in one of those vehicles as a leathery old bounty hunter (an excellent Kurt Russell) is transporting a murderer (a hilariously unladylike Jennifer Jason Leigh) to watch her hang and collect his handsome bounty.

Trying to stay ahead of an approaching blizzard, they first encounter another bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) with a pile of dead bodies, and then another man (Walter Goggins) who states heís the new sheriff of the town where the hangingís to take place, although he has nothing on him to back up his claim. †Russellís character is understandably suspicious of these two, but his concerns grow as they reach an outpost which the local proprietors have conveniently left for a few days. †

Or so says those inside the place (Tim Roth -- seemingly channeling Tarantinoís recent favorite in his latest films, Christoph Waltz -- along with Demian Bichir and Michael Madsen), while an old, racist Confederate general (Bruce Dern) doesnít like the looks of Jacksonís characterís skin color. †The two bounty hunters are sure one or more of those men are in cahoots with their captured murderess, and thus the powder keg has been lit and we sit back and wait for it to explode.

Until then, thereís lots of talking inside the one-room establishment that obviously confines and pretty much negates what cinematographer Robert Richardson can do with his now rarely used ultra widescreen cameras (although the footage leading up to the stop at the outpost looks terrific). †While whatís present is never boring (even if itís too long and could have been cut some, or even a lot), the film doesnít have the sort of signature moments that made Tarantinoís previous works, such as "Pulp Fiction" or "Inglourious Basterds," so memorable. †

In both of those flicks, certain scenes are better than the entirety of many other films Iíve seen over the years. †I kept waiting for the same to show up here, but aside from a few bits of dialogue or funny character behaviors, it never happens. †What does occur, though, likely to no oneís surprise, is a lot of violence that finally erupts in the second half. †The director and his effects crew donít hold back, but although much of itís graphic, a lot is so over the top and exaggerated that the severity is lessened a bit.

Even so, all of that and the directorís usual bag of storytelling tricks (including, yes, an extended flashback to interrupt the storyís otherwise linear direction) only makes me want to see Tarantino forced to limit what he can show or have his characters say (including an abundant use of the N-word) and thus push his obvious creativity in a new and possibly fascinating direction. †Good, but not anywhere near his best, "The Hateful Eight" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed December 4, 2015 / Posted December 25, 2015

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