Quentin Tarantino had one good acting role, in “From Dusk Till Dawn,” as George Clooney’s pedophile brother. He was pretty good. Good and creepy. But generally speaking—Quentin doesn’t act well.
The man can, however, direct, and when he’s on, he’s electrifying. When he’s off, (and even when he’s on) you can pretty much get the same effect by recording utterances of the “N-word” at, oh, say, a KKK rally—and then cycling that loop for two hours.
With the ridiculously blood-spattered, “The Hateful Eight,” QT is in fine form. I should have remained diligent in counting N-words, but got fed up after about 15. My guess is it’s close to 100. Hatefuls N-word saturation has clearly greased the wheels in deleting political-correctness in movie reviews thereof; the N-word appears to have been reinstated in all its Jim Crow-era glory everywhere people are discussing this movie.
So What’s This QT Flick About?
It opens with an “overture,” an all-red screen with an etching of a stagecoach negotiating a high pass in the Rockies. The visual is secondary; it’s the backdrop for an Ennio Morricone musical overture, more horror than Western. However, with four repeating notes—it’s more Philip Glass-boring than horror. It might conjure up some suspense if it were ten seconds long, but it feels like ten minutes. You’re aware of the effect red screens have on bulls?
A decade after the Civil War, that very stagecoach comes barreling through the Wyoming Rockies. Never mind that it’s the 1870s, but it looks like a 2015 snowplow’s been through there already.
In that there stagecoach you’ve got bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), an outlaw-gang member perennially handcuffed to Ruth’s wrist.
She’s also got a perennial black-eye and no teeth due to Ruth’s playing whack-a-mole with her face on account of her perennial obscene blather and insubordination. They’re headed to the town of Red Rock for a hangin’. Daisy’s gonna hang. Daisy’s bad.
Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), another bounty hunter (and former, you know, N-word union soldier), is out stagecoach-hitchhiking, while hauling a frost-bitten, three-corpse bounty.
Later, also hitchhiking, is Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins, for whom this movie may do what “Inglorious Basterds” did for Christophe Waltz) who maintains he’s actually Red Rock’s new sheriff.
With a big storm blowing in, the above four pull in to Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach truck-stop. But Minnie’s not in.
Who is? A bunch of bad hombres, like Mexican Bob (“Weeds’s” Demián Bichir), Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) (another hangman), cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Sanford Smithers, a Confederate General (Bruce Dern).
So basically, what you’ve got here is a murder mystery/whodunit (who poisoned the coffee, right there in the middle of the one-room cabin? Why isn’t Minnie at Minnie’s Haberdashery?) with lots of standard, cartoon-y late-1800s outlaw lingo, where the above motley crew all come down with a murderous, collective case of cabin fever in this snow-bound saloon, in Quentin Tarantino’s brain.
A Poor Man’s ‘Revenant’
It has a lot of the same stuff as “The Revenant“: Rocky Mountains, freezing temperatures, snowy landscapes, racism, blood everywhere, but since it’s set 40 years later than “The Revenant,” it’s also got more “civilized” things like stagecoaches, petticoats, bowler hats, and slightly better groomed facial hair. But the word civilized belongs nowhere near here.
Classic Tarantino: yakkety-yakking murderers and slapstick gore. Tarantino’s style has always been a kind of fetish-ized 1970s cinema; part grindhouse, part blaxploitation, and in order to “justify” the N-word spew-age, he tends to eventually let black men do bad things to white men.
In “The Hateful Eight,” he has the black man (Samuel L. Jackson) do something very, very, bad, in a revenge mode, to the racist white man. Well, to a few of them. This is just so wildly helpful for our current cultural climate.
Because think about it: with 100 utterances of the N-word, are black folks going to emerge from the theater happy campers? With the black man doing shaming things to the white man, are white folks going to emerge from the theater happy campers? Like, deep down, later, after the young-boy-teen violence shock-factor has worn off?
It’s possible Tarantino has gotten away with this because most of his movies move at a high rate of speed and tension, like roller-coasters. This particular story, however, set in a one-room shack, is so thin, that clocking in at three-hours (including intermission) it’s just an in-your-face marathon of N-word-spew and bang-bang shoot-’em-up spew, with Sam Jackson strolling about the shack playing an exposition-spewing Sherlock Holmes, which is really just the blue-streak-spewing Tarantino liking the sound of his own voice.
What’s the Point?
Unfettered, shock-value use of the “N-word” was part and parcel of how Tarantino made his bones in Hollywood, until Spike Lee called him on it. Tarantino’s next movie thereafter, had no N-word; it simply substituted the “S-word” (for Latinos) as well as “mongoloid” for Down’s Syndrome people.
QT is Hollywood’s cinematic shock-jock/destroyer of PC. Only he can get away with this. Again, why? Another reason could be that it’s some kind of reverse-scapegoat syndrome. Maybe America’s xenophobic, jingoistic, and historically racist subconscious does a laying on of hands, a wiping of its collective bottled-up PC frustration, on the Scape-tino, and out comes the N-word, from the American subconscious’s lips to QT’s ears, and out his character’s mouths.
Think of “The Hateful Eight” as the culmination of a body of work magnanimously engineered to liberate the N-word from PC-lockdown—the poor, solitary-confinement-suffering N-word scrambles from its PC jail-cell shrieking, “Free at last! Free at last!”
As one current Republican front-runner recently said, “I’m so tired of this politically correct (expletive omitted).” I wonder what The Hateful Eight’s singular S-word, er, Mexican, would have to say about that?
“The Hateful Eight”
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Channing Tatum, Michael Madsen, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir
Running Time: 3 hours, 7 minutes
Release Date: Jan. 1 , 2016
Rated 1 star out of 5