The Watchers

The Watchers

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Review: The Hateful Eight (UK Cert 18)

We're going to do something a bit unusual for this. Usually, it's one reviewer for a blog review. Not here. We're going to break the mould and two of us are going to give their reviews and all three of us will give the film a rating.

Tez's Review: Tarantino's eighth film (if you don't count anything he did before Reservoir Dogs and count Kill Bill as one film) is back to the Western genre, set in the aftermath of the American Civil War where racial tensions are still running high. Holed up during a blzzard in a rest stop in the Wyoming mountains are a bounty hunter and his prisoner, the new sheriff of a local town, a black Cavalry officer, a white Confederate general, a taciturn cowboy, an English hangman and a Mexican cowhand. The stage is set for a bloody showdown as tensions flare amongst the inmates.

The words 'ordeal', 'drained' and 'weary' were all used once the final credits started rolling after a bum-numbing and patience-trying three hours (which did include a 10-15 minute intermission).

So what's good? The cinematography is quite stunning in places, the original score by Ennio Morricone is particularly effective and the script is fitfully funny- I did have a bit of a giggle in a few places. With one exception, the acting is pretty solid throughout; I enjoyed the performances of Kurt Russell and Tim Roth the most, although it's been Jennifer Jason Leigh that's been getting the award buzz (with Golden Globe, Critics' Choice and BAFTA Best Supporting Actress nominations). Her performance is alright but it's difficult to see quite what's so special about it; she's basically there to be physically and verbally abused. The real misstep is the miscasting of Channing Tatum who appears towards the end of the film and is just the least convincing villain you've seen outside of Quantum Of Solace.

Everything you would expect from a Tarantino film is present and correct- copious dialogue, gut-churning violence, Samuel L. Jackson- but there's something off in the presentation here. Maybe it's the the overly long tracking shots that belabour every point. Maybe it's the repetition. Maybe it's the horrendously overwritten script that is badly in need of a good edit (the first thing that can go is the annoying narration done by Tarantino himself that crops up every now and then to signpost things which, if the script had been a little more coherent, wouldn't need signposting). Maybe it's that the blood and gore effects look so unreal. Maybe it's the complete lack of tension. The film is also a bit of a rip-off of Reservoir Dogs but, here, you don't really care whether any of the characters live or die.

Due to what might charitably be described as 'distribution issues', we were unable to see The Hateful Eight at our usual cinema. However, as it transpires, because of how it was shot (using 70mm Ultra Panavision, which hasn't been used since the 1960s), the vast majority of cinemas won't be able to show it in the format it was intended anyway. I get that Tarantino is a massive film buff and likes to play with genre and form but this is surely an indulgence too far? As I said in my review of Django Unchained, Tarantino is one of those directors who seems to have absolute carte blanche to do whatever he wants to do in a film. If any other filmmaker (with the possible exception of Martin Scorsese) turned in a film like this, the producers and editors would pitch a fit and the damn thing would be filleted down to two hours if they're lucky. But because it's Tarantino, he can get away with it. But I'm a big believer in the saying that just because you CAN do something, it doesn't mean you SHOULD. Maybe this will tell you what you need to know: we had several walkouts during the film and a load of people didn't come back after the intermission. We came very close to walking out ourselves but felt, as we'd given nearly two hours to the film already, we should see it through.

All art is ultimately subjective, but I'm truly baffled by the amount of 4- and 5-star reviews it's getting. Is it because reviewers don't want to be seen as out of touch or snobbish? Is it because it's a Tarantino picture and they always get good reviews (even if the quality is shonky)? Is it  a case of The Emperor's New Clothes? There's an interesting, decent film buried in amongst the self-indulgent waffle and a ruthless edit would bring it out. But as it stands it's an overindulgent, overwritten, overproduced mess.

Rhys' Review: Don't go.

Rhys' Rating: 1 out of 5 (and that's being kind) 

Tez's Rating: 2 out of 5

Matt's Rating: 1 out of 5

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