I am an unabashed Tarantino lover. I have loved just about all of his movies (Death Proof being the one exception…and really only because it’s slow, not because it’s bad) on many levels.
Not just because violence is “so much fun, Jan!” But because his dialogue is smart and funny and he pulls great performances out of everyone he encounters. I love when directors have stock actors that they work with time and time again. I love when directors push envelopes.
And, yes, I love when directors pay homage to their favorite films.
Yes, he goes overboard sometimes, but that’s part of what I love about him.
His latest film makes a pretty good double feature with his first feature…and I kinda love it.
The Hateful Eight is the story of a bunch of guys who don’t trust each other in a room during a blizzard. One of them is black. Most of the rest of them are racist white men, including a former Confederate general. There’s one woman who is a killer on her way to be hanged.
Really, that’s the plot. Lots and lots of racism and anti-racism running through the dialogue and, as always, some great performances by some great actors (Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins). And it plays out like a stage play with lots and lots of blood.
It will never be my favorite film of Tarantino’s.
It’s overlong. It’s heavy-handed at times. Some of the plot points don’t really make a ton of sense. The “surprise” at the end isn’t really much of a surprise if you pay any attention to the opening credits. I didn’t necessarily care enough about the characters this time to make the blood bath at the end really mean anything to me on a deep level.
BUT…here’s the huge difference in this movie and all of the other films that Tarantino has made: It’s actually ABOUT something. From the opening scene with Jackson waiting in the snow, accidentally meeting up with Russell and Leigh, this movie is about racism, through and through. Jackson is a powerful man. He’s a bounty hunter who has a letter from Abraham Lincoln himself. Russell is an acquaintance who is in awe of this letter and was firmly on the side of progress. Leigh is an evil woman who will say anything to get a rise out of anyone.
Then Goggins shows up. He’s a former Confederate soldier who just doesn’t see the use for this new world that America is moving into. Black people? Not slaves? It just doesn’t make sense!
When they get to Minnie’s Haberdashery, they meet everyone in between those two sides. And some on the outer sides. The rest of the film is these men learning to either trust or not trust each other. And it really does end up saying that we’re all the same…on the inside. We all die if you put a bullet in us.
This was the first film made in Ultra Panavision 70mm in decades. I saw it in this format in the Roadshow edition. To be perfectly honest, since most of the film was shot in one room…it really didn’t make much difference. Sure, it’s beautiful and all that. But 70mm is meant for vast panoramas, not intimate stories of racism and violence. But, whatever. It was his choice and I applaud that choice if only to bring back an old way of doing things.
Before Reservoir Dogs, no one knew who Tarantino was.
After Reservoir Dogs, smart people knew who Tarantino was.
He still needed Pulp Fiction to really break him through to the mainstream, but Dogs started it all, even more so than his scripts for True Romance and Natural Born Killers.
Reservoir Dogs is about a bunch of guys who try to rob a jewelry store and and then meet up in an empty warehouse to regroup. They know that one of them is a cop, but none of them know which one. It’s all about learning to trust or not trust each other. And, of course, it ends in a blood bath.
Oh, and Tim Roth writhes in blood on the floor for most of the movie.
This is where the snappy, smart dialogue starts. This is where the great performances start (Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney). This is where the blood and guts start.
While Reservoir Dogs started a lot of tropes in cinema and began Tarantino’s career in a real way, it wasn’t ABOUT anything. You won’t really learn any “greater truths” from watching it. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is completely up to you.
Personally, I don’t care. It’s great filmmaking and that’s all that really matters. And it’s well-paced, so that makes it a better film than The Hateful Eight.
Both of these films would work really well as stage plays and have very similar structures. It’s kind of cool to see a filmmaker go back to his roots like this, even if he doesn’t fully acknowledge that that’s what he’s doing.
Even if The Hateful Eight isn’t his best work, I already can’t wait for his ninth film.