Warning: Spoilers ahead.
I am usually a fan of Quentin Tarantino's films, in spite of a host of sometimes unnecessary violence, but I found The Hateful Eight to be a victim of the writer/director's prior success.
He's an intriguing writer, who creates characters different from many we've seen and imbues them with personalities and fascinating incidental dialogue that gives three dimension to what they're all about. The problem with this film is that there is so much attention paid to each character and their interactions with each other that it becomes like an overwritten stage play, static where it should have been exciting. Almost every one of them appears to have an individual moment to assess one of the others, with the rest sitting idly by in the background until their turns come.
This is not always the case, of course, but it slows the pacing down, not to mention the fact that we are well over an hour into the movie before the shit starts to hit the fan. Then, a little after that we have an almost unheard of in today's filmmaking era -- even with long movies -- 13-minute Intermission.
This, after enduring, yes enduring, several minutes of an overture at the beginning, played not over cinematic visions but while we stare at a slide that simply says "Overture." While Ennio Morricone's music is triumphant as it often is, the tune is so loud and played over and over that we are sitting there wondering what the hell is going on?
Afterwards there are several minutes of credits, which means that the film has not done very much of anything for about 10 minutes, except to leave us panting for that moment when something appears with a title card indicating that Chapter One is before us.
And then the action, such as it is, begins with a wide shot vista of a crucifixion with a desolate snowy background as a stagecoach comes upon a man, Major Marquis Warren, a bounty hunter played by Samuel L. Jackson who is beside his stranded wagon. In the course of a lot of talky, sometimes interesting conversation -- though more like a fearsome questionnaire -- dominated by another bounty hunter John Ruth, played by Kurt Russell, Jackson is allowed to hitch a ride with his collection of dead bodies strapped on top. We also meet Russell's charge who will provide him with a lot of cash, ruthless killer Daisy Domergue, portrayed by Jennifer Jason Leigh, one of the film's prime delights, as she spews racist epithets the minute Jackson is permitted to join them inside the coach.
Lots of chatter and the beginning of violence, both oral and physical, and just then Walton Goggins' Sheriff Chris Mannix happens upon them, walking in the snow all alone. Another long questionnaire, amidst charges of Mannix' past, which Russell's John Ruth knows all too well, but he, too, is brought into the coach.
Before long they arrive at their intermediary destination, an inn known as Minnie's Haberdashery, except as we learn when someone unexpected opens the door to greet them, Minnie is nowhere to be found.
Inside, there are several men, all with stories of their own, and well played by Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demian Bichir and a very good performance by Channing Tatum in an unusual role.
More inflated conversations, as Russell's character collects their guns to protect the reward he expects to collect when he delivers Leigh to the authorities in town.
A major conflagration occurs and then INTERMISSION.
When we come back, the story picks up in intensity, with Tarantino pulling out all the stops with his signature trademark of violence galore. The problem is that it took an hour and 40 minutes to get to the intermission, and after that interval is over, even with the much faster paced plotting and action, there is still another hour before it is done.
If Tarantino had gotten to the point and cut down his attempts at real and sometimes tongue-in-cheek repartee among the characters it wouldn't have felt much ado about nothing until there was more ado to care about far too long into the film.
The performances are first-rate, though the music was overly heavy at times and it occasionally worked against what was happening by overpowering it to make it appear that more was happening than actually was.
So, for me, The Hateful Eight was a mixed bag, and by no means as gripping as Django Unchained or Inglourious Basterds nor his masterpiece Pulp Fiction.
Michael Russnow's website is www.ramproductionsinternational.com