I will state it right upfront: I am an unabashed Quentin Tarantino fan. The writer-director is a master of original and startling moviemaking from Pulp Fiction to Inglourious Basterds to Django Unchained. Jackie Brown may even be my favorite. And now, as I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), he has done it again, taking the Western genre and creating an epic event — and one of the best comedies I have seen all year.

pete hammond review badgeThat’s right, The Hateful Eight is unquestionably a comedy — a sly, wry take on a genre Tarantino knows well. And to put the cherry on top, he even got the legendary Ennio Morricone to contribute a score for his first Western in decades. AND on top of all that, film geek and aficionado Tarantino has shot the film on film in Ultra Panavision, a process using lenses last employed in 1966 for the Cinerama Roadshow Khartoum. The Weinstein Company has scoured the country to find 100 venues that can show 70mm prints, and the film will go out in its initial runs in that format as part of an old-fashioned roadshow engagement, complete with overture and intermission. Even without all that the movie itself runs just under three hours, with the first half essentially dialogue-driven and the second half full of twists and turns and LOTS of cartoonish violence. Tarantino’s smart scripting makes The Hateful Eight almost play like a Broadway play, and it gives an exceptional ensemble cast of actors lots to work with.

The premise is simple. It is a few years post-Civil War and at the opening in a very wintry Wyoming full of snowy conditions, a stagecoach comes into view carrying John Ruth (Kurt Russell) aka The Hangman who is handcuffed to his bounty, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on the way to taking her in. Along the way a Bounty Hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and would-be sheriff (Walton Goggins) join them before the weather forces a stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery, where they unexpectedly meet another group of men, rather than Minnie. There is Bob (Demian Bichir), Oswaldo Mowbray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and Gen. Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). Some of this group may not appear to be who you think they are, but here they are, ‘the Hateful Eight,’ gathered for a memorable night that turns very nasty.

I won’t give away the second half, which incorporates flashbacks that add pieces to this puzzle as well as a surprise appearance from Channing Tatum and the wonderful Tarantino regular Zoe Bell. If you are squeamish, beware. There is lots of bloodletting in this very R-rated affair, but it is so over the top I was laughing throughout.

Technically the film is superb and looks gorgeous with that widescreen cinematography from Robert Richardson that harkens to the best days of hateful eightWestern movies. Some may find the non-stop talk in the film’s first hour and a half a little tiresome, but Tarantino’s dance with words kept me riveted, and the performances are first-rate. Russell and Jason Leigh make a great comic pair with exceptional timing; she is just terrific, giving as good as she gets in every way. Like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, the other snowy Western of the moment, she should get some some sort of medal just for enduring what she has to go through at the hands of this wild bunch. Jackson, another Tarantino stock player, has never been better. Goggins, so good in the FX series Justified, is the real standout here, absolutely delivering a hilarious turn and stealing every scene he is in, which is no easy trick with this gang.

If you are a fan of Westerns, great acting, Tarantino and superior filmmaking, The Hateful Eight will be a gift when the Weinstein Company starts rolling it out Christmas Day. It’s sensational fun. Producers are Richard N. Gladstein, Stacey Sher and Shannon McIntosh.

Do you plan to see The Hateful Eight? Let us know what you think.