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Hateful Eight, The (Blu-ray Review)

18 Mar, 2016 By: John Latchem

Street 3/29/16
Anchor Bay
Box office $53.7 million
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.
Stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Channing Tatum.

The credits for The Hateful Eight unambiguously refer to it as the eighth film directed by Quentin Tarantino (counting Kill Bill as one movie because he refused to edit it and just released it in two volumes), which may play into why it has the title it does. It’s certainly a playful nod to The Magnificent Seven, a trick also used by the recent Adam Sandler Netflix comedy The Ridiculous 6.

Staying in the realm of the Western following 2012’s Django Unchained, Hateful Eight picks up several years after the Civil War with the story of a group of travellers holed up in a cabin in Wyoming during a blizzard, including bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell), who is transporting a tasty-tempered fugitive named Daisy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) with hopes of securing a tidy sum. Ruth has a hunch that someone else in the cabin is working with Daisy and plans to free her, which sets up an intriguing mystery plot concerning who the culprit could be.

As to the numerical description of the title, the main question is who the referenced eight are supposed to be, since there seem to be nine people hanging around before things start to get messy (presumably Ruth’s stagecoach driver is the one lacking the hateful disposition, since his picture is missing from the Blu-ray cover).

This isn’t upper echelon Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Ingourious Basterds, Django Unchained), but even mid-range Tarantino is pretty entertaining, and this certainly qualifies. The clashing character personalities makes for some amusing exchanges and fierce dialogue, even if Tarantino the writer isn’t so much interested in crafting a clean mystery, breaking into the story to personally narrate key exposition that sets up the next chapter. It’s not a surprising move for Tarantino per se, but it’s a bit jarring given the tone of this film. (It works a bit better in Basterds because that film is more of a wild ride.)

Tarantino fans will enjoy seeing filmmaker stalwarts such as Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Walton Goggins and Samuel L. Jackson in key roles, with Jackson particularly feisty in a role that’s clearly in his comfort zone.

The film was famously shot in 70mm, which gave Tarantino a lot of room to play with in terms of staging his sets, and that effort should certainly come across on smaller home theater screens despite the loss of the wide scope of the theatrical experience. Subdued indoor lighting and earthy costumes just make the film feel cold and musty, with Jackson's blue Civil War uniform providing a distinctive flash of color.

The 70mm process provides the focus of the Blu-ray's biggest extra, which seems to be a video made to promote the film’s roadshow exhibition this past December. There's also a short behind-the-scenes featurette.

The Blu-ray offers two options for scene selections. One is the traditional jump to a particular chapter of the movie. The second, and more interesting one, organizes the movie according to music, which isn’t unusual for a Tarantino film.

Most of the tracks are, of course, Ennio Morricone’s Oscar-winning score. But what stands out is how much of the music is just lifted from other films that Morricone did (“Regan’s Theme” from Exorcist II: The Heretic being the most obvious example). This certainly shouldn’t detract from the moody and effective music he composed specifically for this film, but it definitely blurs the lines a bit about what it means to produce an original score.

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