Over his twenty-plus year career, Quentin Tarantino has established himself as the director to seek if you enjoy watching the brutalization of women. In The Hateful Eight, no fewer than a dozen times does the audience witness its female lead punched, pistol-whipped, beaten, and blood-spattered, mostly for comedic effect. The saving grace of these moments (and the film at large) is Jennifer Jason Leigh’s feverish charisma, which progressively focuses your attention on her fearless mouth and mounting rage.
An extended bottle episode, gripping themes of unreliable storytelling and shifting allegiances are shunted aside in favor of shock value gore and comic butchery. The question is clever – what happens when a group of toughs convene during a blizzard with nothing but backstory and pistols? Too bad it takes two hours and fifteen minutes to get anywhere worth keeping your eyes glued to the screen. (Unfortunately, the more certain you are that everyone is lying, the less necessary it feels to uncover the truth.) A supposed master of dialogue, Tarantino has crafted a bombastic script that thinks the dull squabbles of Civil War ghosts and their repetitive barrage of racial epithets and phallic references classify as wit. At least Ennio Morricone’s bouncing score helps maintain the tension. For a film that sees itself as a character study, it’s unfortunate that seven out of these eight spew so many words and still have nothing to say. If you’re looking for a stagy, static study in dominance, I suggest Lars Von Trier’s Dogville instead.