Review: The Hateful Eight

hateful 8 sam jackson final

DIR: Quentin Tarantino • WRI: Quentin Tarantino • PRO: Richard N. Gladstein, Shannon McIntosh, Stacey Sher • DOP: Robert Richardson • ED: Fred Raskin • DES: Yohei Taneda • MUS: Ennio Morricone • CAST: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Channing Tatum, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Quentin Tarantino hates you. He really hates your guts. His hatred for humanity is all too clear from this hateful film The Hateful Eight, coincidentally his eighth feature film and by far his worst. He feels no shame for this utterly brazen and immense hatred. He is proud of it. This film is his best expression of contempt for his audience and indeed life itself.

Do you agree with Danny Boyle’s rule-of-thumb that there’s rarely a good reason for a film to be longer than two hours? Quentin Tarantino loathes you. He will punish you with a pace slower than the melting of glaciers for more than two and a half hours for a story easily told in half the time. He will draw scenes out as long as they can be with over-written repetitive dialogue bereft of any charm it had in his other films.

Do you love the characters he and his collaborators have brought to life on-screen before? Tarantino’s had enough of that for now. The clue is in the title. Every character in The Hateful Eight is hateful in a literal sense, so despicable that there is no reason to be invested in what happens to any of them. When a mystery unfolds surrounding the poisoning of coffee, that could still have been an interesting dynamic to see play out, had it not taken almost two hours of tedium for the film to reach that point.

Do you invest in his reputation for writing strong female characters? Among the male-dominated cast of characters, the outlaw Daisy Domergue has tenacity and roughness in the hopes that these superficial traits hide that she is a damsel-in-distress and a plot device. She is also loathsome in every way, giving you no reason to wish her success in overcoming the captors bringing her to justice. At the same time however, you have no reason to enjoy the really distasteful and repeated violence inflicted on her.

Do you appreciate his attempts at writing strong characters for people of colour? He wants you to shove it. Sit back and watch Demián Bichir wasted on a stereotype of Mexicans so egregious, that even Robert Rodriguez would surely reprimand him and that’d be coming from a director who once cast Willem Dafoe in brown-face. Hear so much about the vivacious shack-owner Minnie and then discover an outdated black mammy caricature when she shows up. Assume Samuel L Jackson’s character is an upright bad-ass who walks the path of the righteous man, as it were. Turns out he’s a lying scoundrel who rapes people as punishment.

Oh yes. In what has to be one of the film’s most bizarrely misjudged scenes, of which there are far too many to choose from, he recounts to the father of a man he murdered that he had forced the man to fellate him. This man was a racist confederate so that might make one less inclined to care about his well-being. If, however, Samuel L Jackson’s character reveals that he considers rape a fitting punishment, hilarious in its symbolism, one also cares significantly less about his. As you should any character who considers rape appropriate in any circumstance ever.

But perhaps you like it when Tarantino pushes limits? Well just because a film is “challenging” does not make it good and the circular logic that anyone who doesn’t enjoy a film like this is either a baby or a prude is such a lazy strawman defence. Tarantino still hates you though and he seems intent on making you regret what you wish for. It’s not just wounds and severed limbs that gush with obscene amounts of blood; poisoned characters vomit blood in such ludicrous quantities that it passes beyond the cartoonish fun of his previous films and just becomes obnoxious.

Did you like how brilliantly Pulp Fiction played around with chronological order? Tarantino hates that you did, so very much and this time around, he is going to have a clumsy, snail-paced flashback entitled “Earlier that morning…” more than two hours into this bloated mess.

Do you care about film in general, as a medium for visual storytelling? Tarantino despises you. This brings us to the moment where he atrociously fails as a filmmaker. There are several scenes of characters talking about each other’s back-stories. We do not see these past exploits; we see characters sitting in a coach or a shack talking about these past exploits even when they sound like more interesting stories to see than the film we got. Characters are not revealed through action but through other characters talking about them. This is not how film as a narrative medium works and it is astonishing that a seasoned filmmaker with Oscars and a Palme D’Or needs this explained to him.

The truly unforgivable lapse in competency comes long after the film’s half-way point when we hear a narrator’s voice that had not been introduced previously, explain additional details about what different characters are doing. Rather than conveying that information visually. LIKE A FILM. Who is the narrator? Quentin Tarantino himself, of course. This is basically a filmmaker of iconic status, openly admitting that he has failed as a filmmaker. The film got to the point where his footage was no longer good enough and he personally stepped in to fill in the gaps. That this voice-over is established so late in the film is what makes the crutch so glaringly obvious.

This, along with so many other baffling decisions, amount to such an abject failure in basic, fundamental, visual storytelling that it could only have been deliberate. It is as if Tarantino is intentionally, purposefully trolling the world by setting out to frustrate audiences as much as possible. And the only defence flimsier than “you just didn’t like it because it was challenging” is “I don’t make films for audiences; I make films I want to see”. This is a new low for him and you can absolutely afford to skip it.

Jonathan Victory

18
167 minutes (See IFCO for details)

The Hateful Eight is released 8th January 2016

The Hateful Eight – Official Website

 

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Greenberg

Greenberg

DIR: Noah Baumbach • WRI: Noah Baumbach, Jennifer Jason Leigh • PRO: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Scott Rudin • DOP: Harris Savides • ED: Tim Streeto • DES: Ford Wheeler • CAST: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Chris Messina, Brie Larson, Juno Temple

After the incisive The Squid and the Whale and the less warmly received but equally brilliant Margot at the Wedding, it seemed that Noah Baumbach was on something of a roll this past decade. Unfortunately Greenberg grinds him to a complete halt – it’s a film as low-key and lifeless as its central character – a failed musician and middle-aged slacker, recently discharged from a psychiatric ward, whose sole purpose in life now is to do nothing – hardly the stuff of cinematic gold.

Roger Greenberg, played by an almost inanimate Ben Stiller, is house-sitting for his brother for six weeks in LA, spending his days building a house for their dog and writing letters of complaint to big corporations. During this time he catches up with old friends and also meets his brother’s eager personal assistant – a young woman named Florence, played by fresh-faced Greta Gerwig in a wonderfully natural turn. She counters all of Greenberg’s jaded cynicism with ditzy charm and a slight lack of self-esteem evidenced by how easily she falls for him. Why a young woman as attractive and seemingly intelligent as Florence would be drawn to this loser is a mystery never questioned in the film – the audience is expected to watch this queasy sort of reluctant romance unfold, very slowly and without much consequence.

The film’s story was devised by Baumbach and his wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh, who also plays a brief role as Greenberg’s ex-girlfriend in the film. Unfortunately, there’s not much to it – nothing to really to drive the film forward – neither the inexplicable central relationship nor the irrelevant illness of Greenberg’s brother’s dog. Perhaps this is intentional, to underline Greenberg’s inertia; the majority of the shots in the film are static and observational – but without much action to observe it starts to feel very lethargic.

There are some highlights. In a droll exchange with his former bandmate Ivan Schrank, played by Rhys Ifans, Schrank recalls the old adage ‘Youth is wasted on the young’, to which Greenberg replies, ‘I’d go further, I’d go life is wasted on…people’ – one of the few really funny lines in the film, basically summing up the message of the movie. When Greenberg’s niece returns home and throws a house party, it lands Greenberg in a room full of 20-something scenesters – he clashes with the modern generation of youth, cementing his belief that he’s completely out of touch with the world.

Ultimately this is a film about the disappointments in life, the regrets this rather reprehensible character has. There’s not much offered in terms of a resolution, or even a series of events leading up to one. Full of bitter exchanges and misunderstandings, it ultimately feels like a waste of time – Gerwig’s performance being one of the few bright spots. Perhaps it’s a cautionary tale to anyone whose life is lacking in direction, but hardly a satisfying way to kill two hours in the cinema.

Eoghan McQuinn

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Greenberg
is released on 11th June 2010

Greenberg Official Website

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