Tuesday, January 03, 2017

No One To Root For Here

The Hateful Eight was on TV, so I tried watching it. I wouldn't describe myself as a Tarantino fan, but I've enjoyed some of his work. This is, probably not going to be one of those films.

Kurt Russell is a bounty hunter bringing in Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a woman with a 10,000 bounty on her head. The wagon stops to pick up Samuel L. Jackson and Walton Goggins*, the former another bounty hunter, the other soon to be sheriff of the town Russell is delivering Daisy to. A storm forces the wagon to stay over at a way station. The normal proprietors are oddly absent, but there are four other people there riding out the storm. At some point, after a lot of talking, and cursing, and more talking, and various characters punching Daisy in the face for the temerity of speaking, and more talking, people start dying. Then there's a 20-minute flashback, then the conclusion.

So yeah, I got a little bored with all the talking. It's possible to use people sitting and talking to increase the tension, the anticipation of the moment when something will happen (or even without talking, see Leone, Sergio). Here, it's dragged out too long, and there's so much talking it just gets tiring after awhile. Kurt Russell is complaining they need to stay ahead of the blizzard, but then wastes an inordinate amount of time arguing with Jackson about whether he'll help load bounty corpses on the wagon.

Also, and maybe this was just me, but there was a disconnect between the dialogue and the violence. The violence seems almost cartoonish is the level of gore, Samuel L. Jackson unloading two pistols into a guy's face, and said face ceasing to exist. Or the protracted vomiting blood sequence, which started to remind me of that Family Guy scene where a bunch of the characters drink ipecac to see who can go the longest without vomiting, only to experience awful consequences. But that doesn't seem like what the dialogue is going for. The characters may be deluding themselves about their pasts and the justifications for their actions, but I don't think they're supposed to be comical.

I'm not sure if I was supposed to enjoy watching them die. I was mostly relived something was happening, and secondary to that, I laughed at some of the violence. But the characters largely failed to make me care enough about them one way or the other. Except maybe for Daisy, and that wasn't really anything achieved by her sparkling personality. Mostly just because all the guys seemed to punch her for any little thing. She doesn't deny being part of a gang, so she had certainly done some shitty things to earn a $10,000 bounty, so no a good person by any stretch. But as she doesn't have much opportunity to fight back, my sympathies leaned slightly towards her. Not much, but a little. Certainly at the end, when Goggins and Jackson share a good chuckle as they lynch her.

The violence and the dialogue were stylistically what I expect from Tarantino, but they clashed in a way I don't remember in the films of his I've watched in the past. Maybe because he went a little further with both, and reached a point where the two couldn't be reconciled.

* As someone who first saw Goggins on TV in The Shield, it's strange to me to see him now being this sought-after actor with an avid fanbase. I saw a review of some film (American Ultra?) where the person complained of how the movie "wasted" Walton Goggins. Which was not a statement I would have expected to read 10 years ago, and one I still have some trouble buying into.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

Well, I think that I will pass on this movie then. While gratuitous violence CAN be amusing, this just sounds gross.