The Hateful Eight

“You got me talkin’ politics!”

I found this film absolutely loathsome when I first watched it back in 2015. Now I want to interrogate why that is because I couldn’t have been more wrong. Can’t remember the last time I’ve had such a drastic about-face on a movie. 

Sure the film is incredibly flawed, and those flaws lie within all its excess. But America was built on excess, and on black bodies. And what is Hateful Eight if not a savage indictment of America’s excesses and original sin(s) — the excess of racism, the excess of white supremecy, the excess of greed, the excess of violence — and a Black Lives Matter battlecry for justice. This movie came out at the end of 2015, which means QT was writing this during Ferguson, in Post in the wake of Tamir Rice, and releasing just in the aftermath Freddie Gray. No wonder this movie is so angry. Anchoring this parable deep in Reconstruction Era horrors just further highlights the illusion of progress between now and then. And Minnie’s Haberdashery emerges as the ideal chamber for this chamber piece, with its weathered wood and putrid pelts: this place of ours is — and has been — rotting from within. 

Look I’m not trying to project values onto this movie; it’s still written by an arrogant rich 50 year old white man so the racial commentary is clunky (and at times, cringey) at best  — and the ending’s harmonious mini morality play made me roll my eyes — but it’s a better effort than I initially gave it credit for. I don’t think it’s a coincidence Tarantino was out marching for Eric Garner and taking NYPD comish Bill Brattom to task while this movie was kicking around in his head. I didn’t see any other of his white Hollywood colleagues out there showing solitary. 

Even if that stuff didn’t work for me (and a lot didn’t!), I’m still a sucker for an Agatha Christie style “someone isn’t who they say they are” yarn, especially set in the American west. And it’s an absolute crime that Samuel L. Jackson didn't even get nominated for an Oscar for this performance. 

QT is annoying and so are his most ardent fans but Jesus thank god someone is making exciting, ambitious, original adult dramas like this.