By Keeva Stratton
He’s one of the most loved or loathed directors, but last night Sydney was out in force to welcome Quentin Tarantino to our shores for the premiere of The Hateful Eight; and he didn’t disappoint. A clearly upbeat Tarantino told the waiting slew of reporters: ‘It’s the most fun I’ve had making a film since Kill Bill.’ And, the good times kept rolling.
The screening, which was presented on 70mm film, was in every way an ode to the film fanatic Tarantino himself clearly remains. In his introduction to the film, Tarantino expressed the hope that the film’s popularity would be akin to ‘spreading like a plague of rabbits.’ The VB swilling director showed a clear fondness for his Australian audience, and even stayed to watch the film (a rarity these days).
Like all good cinema attendees, Tarantino brought friends. Joined by two of the film’s stars, Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson, the trio were happy to share their obvious affections. Russell, the newbie to Tarantino films, explained: ‘He’s different. It’s always a great opportunity when an actor gets to work with someone who’s really creative and gives his actors the opportunity to really create their characters. It was hard to do the shoot, but it was really fun. The way he styles his dialogue is extremely fun.’
Jackson, who has worked with Tarantino many times since Pulp Fiction, was also having fun and is clearly fond of the relationship the two have developed. ‘It’s great. When he [Tarantino] is working on something new he will give me a call and ask me to read it. And I’m always like “I’m in!”’ In The Hateful Eight, Jackson’s role is central, and while he maintains the cool that fans of Tarantino films have come to crave, there is a depth to Major Marquis Warren that he is still himself appreciating: ‘He’s a smart guy, a ruthless guy and he’s got an important story to tell. I’m still trying to absorb the whole experience.’
To do this, Jackson too stayed for the screening, delighting the crowd with some of his more famous and so colourful that they are not to be repeated here phrases, to the audience’s obvious delight.
The film itself, running at 187minutes, presented on 70mm film and complete with a 12-minute intermission, is Tarantino’s eighth—and is as wonderfully indulgent in his obvious love of cinema as you’d hope. An homage to old-school westerns that opens on a distant, sweeping wide-shot of a horse and carriage in the snow, soundtracked by Ennio Morricone, and which soon finds its home in the confines of a bar, again echoing many past westerns, and also the tea and eating house scenes of the Shaw Brothers films Tarantino so clearly adores.
Jennifer Jason Leigh (whose performance is outstanding) is outlaw Daisy Domergue, held captive by bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell), who is transporting her to the local town where she is to be executed for her crimes. Along the way, they stop to pick up Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) whose horse has died, as well as the new town Sheriff (Walton Goggins); but with the threat of an impending blizzard closing in, they are forced to take shelter at Minnie’s Haberdashery (a well-known saloon where things aren’t as they seem).
Snowed in and stuck with another four interesting characters who’d arrived earlier that day, the tensions at Minnie’s Haberdashery begin to rise. As they do, true intentions and identities are revealed in a sea of bloodshed; and, of course, with a generous serving of Tarantino’s trademark dialogue.
Tarantino had quipped on the premiere’s black carpet that ‘Once you’re in that cinema, you’re mine!’, referring to the film’s significant length. He also suggested that a film set in ice-cold Wyoming would be ideal for a summer release in Australia. It’s clear that in the twenty odd years since he became established as a cult directing figure, he has not lost his love for making films, nor his own inner fan boy.
The Hateful Eight is Tarantino having fun. It’s a western, and it’s got gun slinging. It’s got blood and explosions. If you enjoy his style, there’s plenty of it here. And, even if it’s not quite to the same heights as his more notable previous works, it really is—like Russell and Jackson concur—a lot of fun.
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth
Release Date: 14 January 2016 (see it in 70mm at select theatres)
Reviewer Rating: 3.5/5