The Hateful Eight

Hateful-Eight-posterDemonic peddler of violence and profanity or visionary saviour of modern cinema, Quentin Tarantino is nothing if not a divisive figure. Your enjoyment of his latest, The Hateful Eight, will probably be tied to whichever side your personal opinion rests. So if you’re a delicate flower of Jane Austen sensibilities, we suggest you either dig out the smelling salts or look away now.

 

Being arguably the biggest movie geek this side of a grindhouse double bill, Mr Tarantino does nothing by halves. Except here he does, for the all singing, all dancing ‘roadshow’ version of The Hateful Eight is quite literally a film of two halves, split by a 15 minute ‘Interval’ and preceded by an ‘Intermission’. Which is just as well, seeing it runs to a bum-numbing 182 minutes and a Sloth’s bladder is only so big. An homage to the classic western, he also shot it on 77mm film, presumably because that is obtuse and difficult.  Geekiness aside, is it any good?

 

Set just after the American Civil War, we meet three of our eight during a blizzard in Wyoming. Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) is a bounty hunter adrift in the snow, who catches a ride on a stagecoach occupied by fellow bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) who is transporting his captured bounty Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) cross country to claim his reward. En route they pick up several more waifs and strays before sheltering from the storm at a mountain inn which already holds several other dubious characters including Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) and  Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) to make our eight. The next few hours are spent sizing each other up as it becomes clear they may all have vested interests in the fate of Daisy Domergue.

 

The first half is a slow burn. Talky, hypnotic and highly theatrical, our characters bandy the n-word around with typical controversial Tarantino abandon, pushing each other’s buttons over the recent civil war. The second half sees tensions boil over and the inevitable bloodbath ensue. And that, essentially, is it. A chamber piece stretched over 182 minutes. Is it indulgent? Sure. Is it offensive? Doubtless. Is it interesting? Absolutely. Tarantino is famously allowed huge amounts of creative freedom by his producers, which is rare due to movies being subject to commercial pressures so, most of all, it’s fascinating to see what comes out when these constraints are lifted. Would we be calling this indulgent if it were performed on a theatre stage, rather than a cinema? Perhaps not.

 

UK release 8 January

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

captain-america-the-winter-soldier-uk-poster (1)Marvel aren’t half on a roll. Having perfected a mixture of high octane action and dry one-liners, they’re churning them out quicker than you can say ‘Tony Stark’. Latest to join the family fold is Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Chris Evans buffs up his All-American quarterback looks for his second outing as the good Cap’n. Having acclimatised to his laboratory induced super-strength, he’s now struggling to come to terms with the modern world. Aged 95 (and looking marvellous for it – whatever moisturiser he’s using, The Sloth wants a large vat) he’s been too busy helping his employers, Shield, see off bad guys to have much leisure time, chalking up a cultural ‘To-Do’ list that includes watching the 1966 world cup final and listening to Marvin Gaye.

However his self-improvement has to take a back seat as Cap’n is called up for a new mission by his boss Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson – devoid of Kangol hat but replete with a natty eye-patch).  Despatched with other agents including colleague The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to save the crew of a container ship taken hostage by pirates, Cap’n soon realises the mission may not be as straightforward as it seems.

It packs all the requisite big action set pieces and sly wit we’ve come to expect, along with an unexpected and quite pointed critique of our contemporary, all-controlling society. Add a top supporting cast, including Anthony Mackie as The Falcon and the slickly suited and booted Robert Redford as head of Shield, Alexander Pierce (is there any man who wears a three piece suit with such effortless sartorial flair as Robert?  We’d gladly spend 90 minutes just watching him adjust his snow white cuffs) and we were happily entertained. The fanboy next to The Sloth was quite overcome as the end credits rolled, repeatedly gasping ‘oh wow’ to no-one in particular. We can’t guarantee the earth will similarly move for you, but the 3-D glasses might make you a little dizzy.

UK release 28 March

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