DVD review: The Hateful Eight (3 out of 5)

Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson in The Hateful Eight
Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson in The Hateful Eight

Are we really shocked by anything in movies anymore?

I asked myself this question roughly halfway through The Hateful Eight (out now on DVD and Blu-ray) during one of the film’s particularly gruesome moments.

Sure, I thought, this scene is bloody and brutal, but it’s no worse than what you’d see in one of those Saw movies or pretty much anything directed by Eli Roth.

I’m not worried about being desensitised to fictional violence. My concern is, with the ‘shock factor’ taken away, some less talented filmmakers are going to find it hard to engage their audience.

Even Quentin Tarantino, a truly gifted director and writer, seems to struggle a bit with his eighth feature. Everything we like about Tarantino movies (besides the violence) is here: eye-popping visuals, ruthless yet complex characters, plot twists, (somewhat) nonlinear storytelling and some very bad language.

However, despite the many positive aspects of this film – the grim atmosphere, the technical skill on display, the tension in every scene – it doesn’t quite fizz like Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill.

Maybe the predictability of the violence is nothing to do with it. Maybe it’s simply because Tarantino doesn’t try anything new here. There’s certainly a feeling that we’ve seen it all before and the straightforward plot doesn’t counteract the effects of this.

The western is set in post-Civil War Wyoming. On a snow-covered mountain former union soldier and bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) encounters bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell). Warren has three dead bounties while Ruth has a live one – the murderer Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Ruth is taking Daisy to the town of Red Rock to be hanged but there’s a blizzard on its way so the duo seek shelter at a stagecoach lodge called Minnie’s Haberdashery. On the way, they meet former confederate Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) who claims to be the new sheriff of Red Rock. When the men arrive at Minnie’s they relax a little, but soon they realise that things aren’t what they seem.

Despite my quibbles with this film, I’d still recommend it and the main reason is the acting. All eight main cast members – including Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and Demián Bichir – present wonderfully horrid characters.

Each actor relishes the opportunity to crank up the nastiness...and it’s a lot of fun to watch.

To put it simply: people can pick holes in this film all they like but they’ll never find anything wrong with its title.

The Hateful Eight (Cert 18, 161 mins, Entertainment In Video, Western/Thriller/Action, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99 or on-demand from various streaming services)

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