Anyone who thinks they're escaping The Hateful Eight unscathed—including the audience—is delusional. To say that "there will be blood" in director Quentin Tarantino's latest ode to violence is a bit like saying "there might be a few laughs" in a Melissa McCarthy film. Misogyny, racism, wanton violence: The gang's all here. I'll concede to admiring the aesthetics of about a half of The Hateful Eight (The Irritable Four, perhaps?), but the parts of Tarantino's eighth film are far better than the sum. The movie's Rube Goldberg-like construction demands the audience marvel at its mechanics rather than its story. Wagon wheels turn, snow flies, bullets whiz, bodies thump and the soundtrack swells. In the end, however, all we're left with is a body count.
"Quentin made an opera with The Hateful Eight," Oscar nominee Bruce Dern told Boise Weekly in February 2015 as he and his fellow cast members wrapped filming in the mountains of Colorado, 10,400 feet above the town of Telluride. "Quentin Tarantino is an absolute genius, and he's among the best I've worked with." High praise indeed.
But if Tarantino's talent has vaulted him to the top echelon of film directors, his predilection for controversy—not the least of which is his obscene penchant for using the "N" word—has stained his legacy, I'm sad to say. During an Oct. 24 New York City protest, Tarantino chose to pour gas on a flaming debate over police brutality, saying, "If you believe there's murder going on, then you need to rise up and stand up against it. I'm here to say I'm on the side of the murdered." As a result, police organizations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia called for a boycott against The Hateful Eight. Tarantino doubled-down, telling the Los Angeles Times, "I'm used to being misunderstood." That may well be, but most people understood Tarantino's intent to tag police officers as murderers.
Tarantino is far from the first filmmaker to dance with the devil. Jane Fonda, Marlon Brando, Vanessa Redgrave and Woody Allen have all courted controversy, but the Motion Picture Academy has overlooked any alleged transgressions by awarding each an Oscar or two. It is my own personal failing that I've never been able to separate the art from the artist, but that's not to say I won't offer praise for artistic achievement. To that end, I truly wished The Hateful Eight was much more than it is. Alas, it's simply a bucket of blood. Here's hoping nine is the charm.