The Weinstein Company 147 minutes R

The Hateful Eight is not just a movie.  This is an experience. And that’s exactly what Director/Writer Quentin Tarantino was aiming for. Tarantino has created a Western with bloody cartoon-like violence that puts eight crusty characters in a Wyoming Cabin in a comedy/murder mystery that reminded us of a game of Clue! And he’s presenting it in some 100 theaters across the country as a Road Show with a program and everything.

It’s nearly 3 hours long, shot big by Bob Richardson (Django) so it could be shown in 70 mm ultra Panavision with surround sound. The soundtrack by Ennio Morricone (Once Upone a Time in the West, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly) includes an 8 minute overture and there’s an intermission! Tarantino wanted it to be like the epic films of the ’50’s and ’60’s like Ben-Hur, Battle of the Bulge, or Around the World in 80 Days. And he even used the same lenses used for the chariot race in Ben Hur to shoot this film! It’s big!

It starts outside, with vast vistas  of snow covered mountains, but most of the story takes place in Minnie’s Haberdashery cabin on the way to Red Rock where they can take shelter from a fast approaching, monster blizzard. It feels more like a drawing room comedy whodunnit play than a movie. And that’s how it started and almost ended!

Tarantino gave the script to 6 potential Hateful 8 cast members and when it got leaked on the internet, he threatened to scrub the whole project. He was just going to do a live read at a theater in Los Angeles and that’s it. But the presentation was such a hit, he decided to get over it and make the movie. He even dropped looking for the culprit who leaked it. You know who you are.  

The first half of the film sets up the characters and a lot of questions about who is there and why. The tag line for the movie “No One Comes Up Here Without a Damn Good Reason.” The film draws you in to analyze the characters and their behavior to figure out what’s going on. And true to Tarantino, there are plenty of surprises along the way.

Kurt Russell is John Ruth, a bounty hunter taking bad girl, Daisy Domergue, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh to be hanged, and collect his reward. Samuel L. Jackson pops up on the road and talks his way into the stagecoach as does the man who is going that way to become Sheriff of the town and the man who will be able to pay Ruth his money. Walter Goggins as Chris Mannix is pretty funny as the bumbling sheriff wannabe.

When they get to the cabin, four more characters, in every sense of the word, make their acquaintance. Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mowbray. Michael Madsen is Joe Gage. Damian Bichir is Bob and Bruce Dern pulls his Dernsy’s as Confederate General Sandy Smithers. This takes place in post Civil War times which has bearing on how these people react to one another.

Just when you think you might find out something about what’s up in this cabin, there’s an intermission.  Yes, there’s a break in the movie. And the second part reveals clues that give you even more to question. It’s a head scratcher, but keeps you curious about what could happen next. Just be warned that there is a lot of shocking bloody violence, shootings and raw language.

The actors said, with Tarantino’s blessing, they all took risks. Russell says, He’s open to anything as long as helping tell the story. “ On the 4th or 5th take he’d say, ok guys, smash all the rhythms, just tear it apart and let yourself go down any road you want to. He has the confidence to do that.”

Jason Leigh says she and Russell become like a “dysfunctional married couple.” She doesn’t get hit on, but gets beat up a lot but says there’s no one she’d rather be chained to. She’s a bloody mess, but actually plays it pretty funny. Goggins says working with Leigh, “I never knew that Daisy was going to be that complicated and Jennifer just killed it. She’s incredible to watch.”

Tarantino was actually writing this as a kind of sequel to Django but decided to write the lead for  Samuel L. Jackson instead of using Jamie Foxx who plays it over the top, as usual, and it works. Jackson says “I’m flattered that he wrote it for me. He does push my limits and excite me, that make me think.” Russell says “Why wouldn’t I want to work with Sam Jackson in a Tarentino movie. He’s bold actor, unafraid, generous, intelligent, inventive and creative, doesn’t hold anything in.”

Jackson describes the film as a “fun game for audience member to attache to specific characters.” He, too, is complimentary to Tarantino for making this big beautiful film, old style, and the chance to work with a great cast. He calls working with Bruce Dern an “incredible honor.”  And Goggins says watching Bruce do a Dernsy is amazing. When he gets this twinkle in his eye, that would always be the best take.

Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray says the actors were all very excited to see the big camera and lenses on the set in Telluride, Colorado. He describes Tarantino’s filming this for 70mm with all the detail outdoors as well as indoors as “proper cinema. This time “We’re not in a hard drive, we’re in a movie!”

Is this worth your bucks? This is not your regular movie night. This is a special attraction, which is just what Tarantino wanted it to be. The Hateful 8 is his 8th movie. There are rumors he may only make one more film EVER and it may be another Western. We’ll have to see if his big Road Show type of presentation and making films in a big format will catch on with other directors. Time will tell. It’s an expensive process and it will probably depend on the success of this run which is sure to have the Tarantino cult following.

You have to  be patient when watching this film and cut out a lot of time not only to see it but think about it. The actors were so excited Madsen says he said WOW when he first read the script and describes it aptly as a whole bunch of subjects with a cowboy hat on it. Dern says Other than 2 or 3 days, working with Hitchcock, he was excited to come to work every single day on the film. Why? “Because the guy just might do something that’s never been done and you don’t want to miss it. You want to be in on it. And that’s what Quentin Tarantino is.” This is your ticket to be in on it, too.