The Hateful Eight

I’m willing to bet that no Oscar nominated actress like Jennifer Jason Leigh has ever spent a film this bloody, bruised and beaten.

The Hateful Eight If you want a short synopsis of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, imagine that he did a sequel to Reservoir Dogs (1992), this time placing it in Wyoming immediately after the Civil War. Nobody, and I mean nobody, brings violence to the big screen like Tarantino, yet he leaves you repeatedly laughing as you watch men die in a cinematic bloodbath that lasts close to three hours.

The film centers around a bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) bringing his prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) into an old outpost somewhere in Wyoming as they dodge a massive blizzard. They are joined by a collection of sinister characters with unknown intentions, and the only thing you know is that none of them will die peacefully.

Strangely, the relationship between Russell and Leigh resembles a comedy team that looks like a terribly sadistic version of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. While Russell leaves her face a bloody mess following constant assaults with his elbow as he leads her to a hanging, she simply spits out blood and cackles.

The relationship between our characters leaves you both fascinated and repulsed. Samuel L. Jackson dominates this film, here playing a twisted Civil War veteran who is hauling three dead bodies to a nearby town to obtain a reward. His character resembles his memorable role as Jules Winnfield in Tarantino’s epic film Pulp Fiction (1994), and he is as hysterical as seen in Spike Lee’s recent Chi-Raq and last year’s memorable Kingsmen: The Secret Service.

Without giving anything away, you soon begin to wonder if the gentlemen awaiting the arrival of Mr. Russell are strangers or a team with a hidden agenda. As noted, no one dies peacefully, and the performances of Walter Coggins, Demián Bichir, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Channing Tatum and Michael Madsen leave you frequently captivated as you simultaneously cover your eyes to dodge unimaginable deaths.

Many of my friends cannot tolerate Tarantino’s films because of his focus on violence. While I understand that, he remains an artist who can bring to the screen a pictorial display of viciousness that leaves you gaping with a feeling of disgusted wonder. Though nearly everyone dies in a bloody, wretched fashion, nearly all of them do so with a smile on their face.

It may sound lamentable, but I find myself attracted to Tarantino’s gift for taking the audience on a boat trip across the River Styx to explore the dark corners of Hell.