NEW YORK (CNS) – Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight" (Weinstein) is a sprawling, hugely self-indulgent, misogynistic and lengthy beyond bloated (183 minutes, including an intermission) vengeance tale best appreciated only by his most ardent fans.
That's assuming that long stretches of tedium don't drive them away. This is one dreary bag of hot gas, without a single breakout monologue to give the story some memorable polish.
As with "Django Unchained" in 2010, the director-writer shows his mastery of the elements of the classic Western, a genre largely ignored for many years except for comedies. There are outlaws, a stagecoach, arguments settled at the point of a gun or the thump of fists, and the characters, all of whom are shown to be morally compromised, endure hostile weather.
And when they're through talking about all of that, they usually spring into unexpectedly grotesque violence only because Tarantino evidently finds it amusing. He's not as interested in telling a story with classic techniques as he is in setting up old tropes, then kicking them apart.
So a story that combines a tough winter slog with a claustrophobic murder mystery in a snowbound Wyoming hostelry becomes quite oppressive indeed.
Tarantino puts eight tough-talking louts in Minnie's Haberdashery, where they have taken shelter in a raging blizzard that makes travel impossible. John Roth (Kurt Russell) is a bounty hunter known as The Hangman because he prefers to deliver criminals alive for their executions.
He has in tow a seemingly feral outlaw, Daisy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and eventually joining him on the stagecoach driven by O.B. (James Parks) to Minnie's are Maj. Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Chris (Walton Goggins), who is set to be the next sheriff of their destination, Red Rock, as soon as he arrives there.
The proprietress and her husband are not to be found, but there instead are a former Confederate general, Sandy (Bruce Dern), a traveling British hangman, Oswald (Tim Roth), a helpful Mexican stable hand, Bob (Demian Bichir), and the easygoing Joe (Michael Madsen).
As the plot unspools oh-so-slowly, all of these characters are revealed to be far more menacing then their initial exteriors, and Tarantino, in the tradition of an Agatha Christie mystery, starts finding ways to kill off a sufficient quantity until the truth is revealed.
In addition, Daisy sustains quite a large number of punches from John, and Maj. Warren, a former Union officer who claims to have been a pen pal of President Lincoln, endures quite a number of crude racist remarks.
The horses, it should be said, maintain their dignity at all times.
The film contains extended bloody gun and knife violence, frequent crude racist banter, and pervasive rough, crude and profane language. The Catholic News Service classification is L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Mr. Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service