Tarantino Nuanced in New Film

Rachel Jin, Lifestyle Editor and fergie

Blood, violent aesthetic, and dry humor are the hallmarks of any Quentin Tarantino movie, but the director’s 8th film, The Hateful Eight, offers something more from the controversial director. With only Samuel L. Jackson and Tim Roth representing the Tarantino ensemble, The Hateful Eight cast consists mostly of fresh faces. Having harnessed the talents of John Travolta, Brad Pitt, Lucy Liu, and Leonardo DiCaprio in past films, Tarantino’s feature actors for Hateful Eight are Channing Tatum (fans, prepare yourselves accordingly), of Magic Mike and 21 Jump Street fame, and Kurt Russell, who starred in Tarantino’s double-feature homage Grindhouse in 2007.

Set during the American Reconstruction era, Jackson’s Major Marquis Warren, an acclaimed bounty hunter, meets a professional peer, John Ruth (Russell), dubbed “The Hangman” for his notorious practice.

Ruth has kept his victim, the crass and ill-tempered Daisy Domergue, alive, chaining her to his wrist with metal handcuffs as he travels to Red Rock. Warren, whose destination is also Red Rock, hitches a ride with Ruth.

On account of the increasing severity of the blizzard, the three passengers, plus a fourth they picked up along the way, make a rest stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery, where they are greeted by four others. While the eight ostensibly attempt to form an uneasy friendship within the walls of the locked cabin, hidden agendas and social conflict inevitably lead to explosive violence as the travelers come to realize they have little chance of ever reaching their destination.

Moving forward from the action-driven plots of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Kill Bill, Tarantino has since offered dramatic interpretations of sociopolitical issues in Inglourious Bastards and Django Unchained, finally weighing in on the issue of post Civil War racism with The Hateful Eight.

Backlash in response to the use of racial slurs in Django has not stopped the actor-director from continuing to explore the issues of racism and segregation in American history.

In The Hateful Eight, Jackson’s Marquis Warren is the only non-white character, the other being Bob, a Mexican accomplice of the other party. Tension between Warren and other racist, white characters, particularly newly-appointed sheriff Chris Mannix and elderly Confederate veteran Sanford Smithers, prevent the amicability necessary for survival. A recurring symbol is a forged letter to Warren from President Abraham Lincoln, the validity of which the others question immediately, due to Warren’s low social rank as a man of color.

Though racial motifs, rescue missions, and the bounty hunter character were all used extensively in Django, Tarantino refreshes these themes, distinguishing this latter film from the former.

Tarantino takes a cue from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie novels, incorporating mystery.

Tarantino also provides his typical sudden bursts of comedy. The stoic voiceover, provided by the film maker, is often ironic. While the subject matter might seem more serious than his previous films like Pulp Fiction, The Hateful Eight somehow manages to be genuinely funny, rather than wry.

The level of violence is not unusual for a Tarantino film, but Hateful Eight is most definitely not for the faint of heart. The cinematography is cringeworthy, and the ultra violent and grotesque style for which Tarantino is known is in robust supply: At one point a character vomits blood into the mouth of another.

These scenes should not district from the unique nuance Tarantino adds to the traditional tension between hero and villain. In previous films, Tarantino’s “good guys” have been rather obvious heroes (rebel slaves, American soldiers, vengeful Jews, dutiful hitmen, katana wielding women in yellow jumpsuits), and “bad guys” have been representations of vilified groups (slave owners, Nazis, robbers, assassins who murder all of your wedding guests).

The Hateful Eight offers protagonists in unpopular positions by modern standards, while antagonists seem more like victims.  Marquis Warren and John Ruth are wired to become fan favorites; however, they are horribly flawed men with sadistic dispositions.

While not quite so violent as Kill Bill, my personal favorite, The Hateful Eight reaches a new level of sophistication in drama, tension, gravity, and political profoundness from a director who once marked a dramatic climax with “Trix are for kids.”