Geek Review: The Hateful Eight

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Do Westerns count as Geek Entertainment?  Well, when they’re written and directed by Quentin Tarantino they do.  Tarantino has a gift for swiping the different grind house style movies he loves and combining them into high energy, intense motion pictures.

His latest, The Hateful Eight, is being reviewed with NO SPOILERS after the cut.

The movie, set in the Old West in Wyoming during a rough winter, features eight different, ultimately desperate characters to find shelter in a general store in the middle of nowhere.

Actually, there’s a ninth, a stagecoach driver played by Tarantino regular James Parks, but he wasn’t considered part of the Eight by the writer/director, so I won’t here either.

As it turns out, these eight all have different connections to each other to one degree or another, and many have a good interest in killing other people in the room.  While the audience is perhaps best meant to connect with Samuel L. Jackson’s Major Marquis Warren, a retired Union cavalry officer and bounty hunter, or with Kurt Russell’s John “The Hangman” Ruth, another bounty hunter with a reputation of always bringing in his prey alive for the hangman, as the most likely pair of benevolent figures in the store, anyone who’s ever seen a Tarantino picture knows that good guys are rarely that good, and many are quite up to the task when the violence starts.

This movie may be one of the director’s most character-based work.  While there are his standard long conversations, the setting is almost entirely in the same room of the same store while a blizzard blows outside.  None of these people are going anywhere.

The movie does have its usual spate of bloody violence that is a Tarantino trademark, but has an odd ending where two of the eight bond over ideas from a famous American of their combined past.  Representing both North and South from the Civil War, the two men actually offer the audience hope, a rare commodity for the director who usually deals in something closer to nihilism.

Special note to actor Walton Goggins.  Though not appearing in his first Tarantino movie (indeed, six of the eight worked with Tarantino before, as did a number of supporting characters), Goggins’ character may be the most surprising.  Billed in the trailers as “The Sheriff,” Goggins spends most of the movie acting like some sort of dumb comic relief.  Late in the film, in a way entirely organic to the character, his performance, and Tarantino’s script for him, show a deeper, more nuanced man than audiences might have come to expect.  It’s a welcome development, and Goggins makes the most of it.

Actually, most of the cast seems to be enjoying themselves, and though this was hardly my favorite of Tarantino’s movies, I will give this one nine out of ten spilled jellybeans.

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