Musings on The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight is a film out of time, somehow delivered to us from a world in which a young Quentin Tarantino, fresh off of Reservoir Dogs, has been given a budget and studio backing to to to make his second movie. A profound regression, it positions itself as a response to the criticisms that Quentin Tarantino has been making the same movie since Kill Bill and needs to get back to what he was good at. It plays like a movie that someone would think Tarantino would make. It plays like Quentin Tarantino's Mallrats.

This isn't to say that I think The Hateful Eight is a bad movie, in fact far from it, everything I dislike about it feels both intentional and intentionally abrasive. It's a middle finger of a movie, a three hour joke where the punchline's on you for ever giving a shit in the first place. It's Reservoir Dogs' nihlism writ large, hours of tension building up to a climax where nobody wins and everyone's just as awful as each other, tipping its hand with a hilarious final shot cribbed straight from every episode of The West Wing.

I left the cinema mostly curious as to what comes next. The Hateful Eight feels like a transitional movie for Tarantino, who's been making revenge fantasies in which audiences get to cheer as personifications of structural oppression are straight up murdered for the better part of a decade. There's an attempt made to comment on the invisible, persistent violence that has to be navigated simply because you dared to be black in America, but the movie drops all pretensions of earnestness shortly into the second act.

After this, I don't think Tarantino can go back to that well. I love all of his prior movies (with the exception of Inglourious Basterds), but as time moves on a white dude auteur crafting the fantasies of the marginalized becomes less and less relevant, no matter how good those movies may be. Kill Bill almost certainly wouldn't play as strong today, with the rise of the internet and the greater ease with which works from alternative perspectives can be found, and it's barely been a decade.

Which brings us back to The Hateful Eight, a tantrum in movie form, the story of old bitter men gunning each other down pointlessly, and fuck you for thinking there was going to be a point at all. Tarantino, shooting in 70mm Ultra Panavision, is fighting against his own irrelevance in every frame, and when his next movie comes around, we'll see if he wins.