Somewhere, Quentin Tarantino is sipping a glass of wine, refreshing Rotten Tomatoes and laughing as he watches the critics squirm.
You can’t apply a one-sentence thesis to a Tarantino film. You just can’t. But with the consistency of the changing of the seasons, people are going to try. Critics have said that “The Hateful Eight” is about race in America or the cyclical nature of war. It’s not. It’s also not a “bad” or “evil” film. I’ve even seen a popular, intelligent critic pontificate on Tarantino’s “moral compass.” To me, that’s awful, and making a broad statement on what a Tarantino film is about is maybe even worse. Saying that people are missing the point is terribly elitist, I know, but I can’t think of a better way of putting it.
“The Hateful Eight,” Tarantino’s funniest film, is the worst date movie of all time. Where “Django Unchained” was crowd pleasing even in its brutality, this is truly, gratuitously dark stuff. It’s marketed to the Applebee’s-chowing, “Pulp Fiction”-loving crowd, but this one’s really for the weird kids: the trash cinema lovers, the art room goths, the Russ Meyer fans, the bitter, godless millennials.
Comprised entirely of wonderful shots and even more wonderful performances, “The Hateful Eight” paints with the ultra-confident brush of a writer/director who has known that he can do whatever the fuck he wants for his last five movies. When two bullets leave a giant smoldering crater where a man’s face would be, you know Tarantino’s crew did it precisely the way they meant to. Come on, you’ve known that since “Kill Bill.”
Okay, okay — I’ll try to get to some kind of a point. “The Hateful Eight” is not like any western I’ve seen (besides its aesthetic, of course). It’s more like what I imagine the real life implications of the board game “Clue” would be like. We have expressive, engaging characters with murder on the brain, and the fun is figuring out whodunit and why. The filmmakers employ Hitchcockian suspense with frightening ability: we’re shown the puzzle pieces and we shriek with pleasure as it all gets pieced together in front of us, one move at a time.
Wait, there’s a “Clue” movie already? Shit.
But even though the pieces are all together, the cardboard doesn’t form a sensible picture, or at least one that you would traditionally expect. Maybe the final moments of “The Hateful Eight” are like a puzzle picturing a huge, veiny penis. That might piss some people off, especially since the box the puzzle came in had a photo of a nice little John Ford vista on the front. Going again by RottenTomatoes, approximately 24 percent of you are going to be pissed off. Try not to be pissed off by the best film of 2015. Enjoy the masterful gratuity. It’s all a bit too much, and if you’re anything like me, you’re going to love every second of it.
Much like life itself, “The Hateful Eight” is a big beautiful question without an answer, and it ends abruptly. I get that that’s frustrating, but, much like life itself, I wouldn’t want any of us to miss out on it.