'The Hateful Eight' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD]
(Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, et al / 2-Disc Blu-Ray+DVD / R / 2016 / Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Overview: In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.
Blu-Ray Verdict: Simply put, eight strangers, caught in the middle of a blizzard must share a cabin, time, stew and coffee. Everything opposes them, from the weather to each other, and so the tension - spread over nearly 3 hours - slowly builds.
Meeting in the stagecoach, you have John "the hangman" Ruth, a paranoid bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) handcuffed with a female black-eyed criminal, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who is being taken to Red Rock to be hanged. Then you have a black Union veteran, Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) who also happens to be a bounty hunter with three dead men to carry to Red Rock also. Too much for his horse he asks if he can snag a ride as the bad weather begins to come in. Next into the frame comes a Lost-Causer named Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) who happens to be the future Sheriff of Red Rock who also would like a ride with Ruth and his criminal.
In the stagecoach stopover, you have Oswaldo Mobray, a suave Englishman (Tim Roth) who happens to be Red Rock's future executioner, Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), a cowboy who's going to visit his mother although his face screams "desperado" more than "mama's boy", General Smithers (Bruce Dern), a Confederate veteran with a grumpy menacing look and "Bob", a Mexican worker (Damien Bashir) who took the place of the seemingly absent owners; much to Warren's surprise, as he's more than used to stopping at Minnie's famous 'Haberdashery'. So, some 3 hours later, with all the characters exposed, sure you can say that there were ten or more too many coincidences to suspend our disbelief, but the fun to be had getting there is incredible!
Indeed what is brought forth within 'The Hateful Eight' is some fantastic behind-closed-doors (with nailed on boards, for added dark humor) mystery / drama, in addition to SO MUCH anger, ongoing deceptions, lies and ugliness! What a GREAT movie, if not an hour too long, this truly is!
But, as not everything in this world, especially cinematic can be perfect, let's have a look under the covers at some of the good and bad aspects of 'The Hateful Eight,' shall we. The slow pacing (and by God, it IS slow) isn't just the usual quiet-before-storm stuff, no. The film leaves room (literally) for a few seemingly-friendly exchanges that feel like exposition, but they put you at ease because you know (hope) it will pay-off in a mighty bloody way. For the most part I actually enjoyed the long conversations the film features, especially those supposedly independently from the plot.
For me, the two stand out performances - despite the slow placing - come from both Jackson and Russell. Sure there are the usual angry tirades and eloquent storytelling, but the quieter moments belong to some of the greatest actors' interactions Tarantino ever directed. Oh, and let us not forget Jennifer Jason Leigh, deservedly Oscar-nominated, and Walton Goggins really steals the movie at certain times also.
Next up is what I shall term as Unreliability. Basically, you don't know who's the good or bad guy. Think about it. All the previous films had clearly established villains (although charismatic) and heroes (although flawed). 'The Hateful Eight' sticks by the fact that you never quite know whom to trust, or to believe. Is the story a lie? Is the letter a fake? Is Minnie absent? We're back to 'Reservoir Dogs' claustrophobic entrapment enhanced by that ugly blizzard going outside (used here as a dark comedy running gag!)
Vulnerability crops up next as there's nothing, no status, no strength, that makes anyone immune to bullets. The violence strikes everyone in its blindest, ugliest and most surprising way come the end, and it's precisely because Tarantino puts some slow and talky moments in the right places that the outbursts of violence really take you off-guard and you never really see them coming. Truly, you just don't, trust me! While in his previous movies, where it was all about the good guy taking his revenge, we had a sort of cinematic instinct telling us when it was going to get ugly. Not here. Not even close.
With regard some Intelligent Subversion, as I like to term it, the film was panned as misogynistic. I think the treatment Domergue got spoke loud statements about the danger she incarnated and that "bigged up" her aura more than anything. No offense to the Girl-Power trend that affected the action genre with 'Star Wars' and 'Mad Max', but I found the two most interesting portrayals of female protagonists in movies this year were both Jennifer Jason Leigh as Domergue, and Emily Blunt in 'Sicario' - and both happened to be violent, yet stylishly realistic movies!
Featuring an original score by Ennio Morricone, this alone shows that, for once, Tarantino took his material more maturely and seriously than usual. Though some bits were originally made (but not used) for Carpenter's 'The Thing', one of the movies that inspired Tarantino, you can tell he hunkered down good and tight with the legendary composer for this epic soundtrack score.
In closing, the negatively critical uproar for 'The Hateful Eight' from both press and fans alike - more than any other Tarantino movie - was misplaced, in my opinion. I mean, what, all of a sudden, the characters were too mean-spirited, and violence too much to handle for you all?! Yet it was cool when it was against Nazis and slave?! Grow up. Anyway, for once, Tarantino doesn't go for a simplistic and intelligence-insulting Good vs. Evil antagonism here, and so 'The Hateful Eight' breathes easier for that.
FYI: Ultra Panavision 70 is the very rare and exceptional format that Quentin Tarantino and his team used to shoot 'THE HATEFUL EIGHT', the widest 70mm theatrical release in twenty years. Panavisionís unique anamorphic camera lenses capture images on film in an incredible aspect ratio of 2.76:1. Almost all films seen today are shot in ratios of either 1.85:1 or 2.39:1. Simply put, Ultra Panavision 70 provides an amazingly wide and more detailed image. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.76:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Beyond the Eight: A Behind-The-Scenes Look
Sam Jackson's Guide to Glorious 70mm
Feature Commentary with Director David Feiss and Writer Carlos Kotkin
Super Speedy Recap
Director Profile: David Feiss
Own 'The Hateful Eight' on Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD on March 29th!
Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD Purchase Link
'The Hateful Eight' Official Movie Trailer