‘The Hateful Eight’
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh
4 (out of 5) Globes
“Let’s slow it down. Let’s slow it way down,” a character says somewhere in the third hour of “The Hateful Eight.” He’s not kidding. Discounting the two-part “Kill Bill,” Quentin Tarantino’s epic western is the longest film he’s ever made, but it’s also the slowest — the one most conscious of pacing and how its maker’s dialogue isn’t just there to sound cool or flowery. It’s there, in “The Hateful Eight” more than in any other film, to draw out time to the point that we forget about it. Especially in “Eight”’s first half — before the actual, old-school intermission (if you’re seeing the 70mm “roadshow” version) — it serves a similar purpose to the long takes in Bela Tarr films: so we get enveloped and lost inside a world that’s the size of a small bubble.
It’s also there to make the second half more of a shock — to make it seem even bloodier, twistier and more genuinely nasty, even hateable, than it would without the glacial lead-in. Despite being shot in 70mm, “The Hateful Eight” is essentially a piece of theater, albeit one heavy on squibs and a couple exploding heads. (Tarantino has threatened to repurpose it on stage.) A looming blizzard strands the titular octet in a remote Wyoming haberdashery. Each visitor is a different kind of wretched, all equally self-interested: Samuel L. Jackson is a Union soldier-turned-bounty hunter, Kurt Russell a mega-mustachioed hangman chained to a near-feral outlaw (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Bruce Dern a crotchedy ex-Confederate general, etc. The North won the war, but all that’s left is people who hate each other forced to congregate and not get along before all hell — very eventually — breaks loose.
The public perception of Tarantino is as a puppetmaster of ultraviolence. In truth he parcels it out. People remember the dialogue as well as the parts where people’s brains are splattered all over car interiors, but they may not remember the chatter-to-violence ratio is about 50:1. “The Hateful Eight” is partly meta-commentary, playing with our expectations. Almost all of the “good stuff” is put off to the second half, post-intermission, following a genuinely shocking first act closer designed to leave all jaws dropped, and not all of them happily. And once it starts it doesn’t let up, even if you eventually want it to.