I’ve decided that it’s very hard to like a movie when you despise the director. I’ve also decided that this is the QT movie that made me despise QT.
I generally really like his movies. Pulp Fiction is an undeniable masterpiece. Reservoir Dogs is a force to be reckoned with. Django Unchained made me laugh with its exaggerated absurdity. But this, this Hateful 8 business, this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. I have no other idiom for it; I just chose that one because it’s obvious and because camels are cute.
Everything you’ve read about the n-word usage is true — it’s rampant in this movie. So much so that, if it was ever questioned before, it’s abundantly clear here: QT has a fetish for using it. He gets off on it. He enjoys the sound of it, the effect it has standing alone or in machine-gun pattern, the power it gives and takes away. Of course, he thinks he has all the power by using it, and that he’s entitled to use it for whatever reason, and I’m not sure why society has bestowed upon him that power. He abuses it like no one ever has, and I’m not even sure what the point of it is anymore. The word has lost its shock value, at least in the context of his movies. The only possible justification I can come up with for dragging out this fetish the way he does is that maybe oversaturation is his point. By dousing his movie with the word, it loses its power and we don’t have to deal with it anymore as it phases itself out of the cultural lexicon.
Too bad we still will, because his next movie will be sprinkled with it like all the rest, and because that’s not how prejudice disappears. At best, he tried to impact change in an arrogant way. At worst, he thinks he’s the shit — and it’s probably the latter. It reads as a desperate cry for attention, when in fact we’re completely over the taboo — or in need for another, more complex delivery system of whatever message he was trying to send.
QT has another fetish that we all know about, and that’s violence. When he’s not having other characters call Major Marquis Warren (SLJ) the n-word, he’s having Warren and the other characters blow each other to pieces. I suppose this display is intended as dark comedy, and I certainly took it as such in the wonderful movies I mentioned earlier. But this time around, I absolutely couldn’t bear it. Daisy Domergue’s (Jennifer Jason Leigh) face was covered in blood for the entire movie for no discernable reason. When John Ruth (Kurt Russell) gets sick, the blood-vomit spurts out of his mouth like water out of a just-unblocked spigot, also for no discernable reason. When images like this are glorified in the eyes of entertainers and viewers alike, it’s no wonder that our country has deeply disturbing problems with mass shootings and gun control. Not everyone will “appreciate” the “irony” of the “humor” here — a few will take it at face value and use it as inspiration. If QT were part of some larger satire or parody or awareness or movement, or were writing a more pointed alt-history like he did in Django or Inglorious Basterds, I might be able to understand or even justify his choices in Hateful 8. But I can’t, because I don’t see any purpose behind it, just like I can’t get behind his language choices. At the end of the day, this is a self-indulgent movie about a bunch of assholes stuck in a room together for a few days.
There was one scene in particular that really pissed me off, but let me first say that I didn’t entirely hate the movie. I rather liked parts of it. The first half was quite lovely, actually — the shots were a lot more forlorn- and lonely-feeling than in previous QT movies. The dialogue was sparse but still clever. By doing the incredibly pretentious thing of starting the score 10 minutes before the movie — and deservedly so, because Ennio Morricone wrote it — QT forced his audience to focus and listen and get into the Western-watching mood. (I hate to give him credit for something, but I have to there.) He did another pretentious thing by providing us with an intermission, and credit is also due, because it was a three-hour movie. He knows that everyone has to pee, and I genuinely appreciate that. The acting was also superb and a joy to watch — a nice, albeit extremely male, selection of QT alumni (SLJ, Russell, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth) and relative newcomers (Leigh, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Channing Tatum, Demian Bichir) who seemed to enjoy each other’s company, despite their one job being to despise each other’s company.
I particularly enjoyed the performances of Russell, Roth, Goggins and Bichir. Russell got to play this swarthy, controlling asshole bounty hunter, and I loved him for it. Roth put on a completely different British accent for his role as Oswaldo Mobray, and it made me appreciate his talents all the more. Goggins, amid a slough of talent, really brought energy to the film as Sheriff Chris Mannix, which could have gone stale with its one-room setting. And Bichir — well, he was my favorite. His character, Bob, wore a giant fur coat and delivered all the best one-liners and remained very mysterious until the bitter end. As far as I’m concerned, he stole the show by being subtle and indifferent in a room full of bloodthirsty lunatics.
Which brings me to my least favorite scene. It involves SLJ, QT’s ever-present, monotonous muse, who actually got a semi-meaty role to play this time around. (I swear he plays the same character, extremely well, in every movie. Let’s get him and Blythe Danner in a Nancy Myers flick and just see what happens.) Up until this scene, despite the language (the violence was mostly at the end), the movie played like Basterds and Django — a period piece with a distinct QT spin. Until! Warren went off on this frat-boy fueled, painfully anachronistic threat-rant to Smithers (Dern) about Smithers’ son sucking Warren’s big black cock. In addition to this being the catalyst for the obscene violence to start, it was also the precise moment that made me despise QT. It played into the immature hands of a subsection of QT’s audience — guys looking for a reason to keep laughing at homophobic dick jokes — and it took me completely out of whatever tenuously-established era I thought the movie was in. Once the violence switched on, and the ketchup packets started spewing, it was settled. I’d probably given QT the benefit of the doubt for too long, and it was time to stop. I thought he was better than that, but he’s not.