The “program” handed out at special roadshow engagement that I attended
The word “self indulgent” is often used to describe Tarantino, and whether that “fuck you I will do movies the way I want” is actually Quentin or a carefully-cultivated counter-culture-pandering persona I know not, because I have heard compelling arguments on both sides. I am a big fan of QT myself, because high art or not, his movies are always enormously enjoyable in the most unconventional of ways(I mean who would ever think that a conversation about “Royale with cheese” would be that memorable?) and though he has spawned an army of followers and me-toos (some of them in our Hindi film industry), he has remained pretty much un-inimitable.
I correct that. He is now imitated. By himself. The Hateful Eight, which I was fortunate to watch in 70mm as part of the limited release “roadshow”, is like a greatest hits of Quentin Tarantino recorded on bad-quality tape. You have seen everything in this film before, from Quentin Tarantino himself. Except he has done it better before. The exact same sequences. In order to keep this review spoiler-free, I am deliberately not going into the details, but for any QT fan, you can almost take every significant sequence and theme and narrative “trick” of the Hateful Eight and map it back to a previous QT film, and every time you would feel (at least I did) that it was done way better before. The quirks are all there, and the sudden surprises, and the bursts of action, interspersed with deliberation, but this being the eighth Tarantino(a point he announces in his trademark grandiloquent manner straight at the beginning), the extreme-shock devices, both dialog and action, have been blunted through over-use. Even the politics, and Hateful Eight often has the subtlety of a propaganda video, is regurgitated from “Django Unchained” and, even there, Django does a better, more entertaining job, of getting the point across.
One of the main problems, I felt, was the cast. I know Quentin Tarantino likes to repeat his actors, but there is only so many times that Samuel L Jackson can play the goddamn same role. Much of the deja vu of the Hateful Eight is because of him, and I so wish that QT had, instead of playing safe and going back to his tried-and-tested, tried someone new, like Idris Elba. That would have been something different at least. As a matter of fact, the only successful casting here are of those new to the QT world, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walter Goggins. Leigh is the stand-out performance in the movie, the only one I would characterize as memorable, with Goggins a close second. The others, including old QT favorite Madsen fade into the background noise, with Tim Roth trying to mimic Christoph Waltz being particularly difficult to watch.
As an old QT fan, I am afraid that he is now dangerously close to the Shahrukh-Salman “strait-jacketed by his image” territory, if he is already not inside it, and while the Hateful Eight is definitely watchable and, to an extent, enjoyable, it will remain one of the lesser films of his stellar career.