Credit: Andrew Cooper

Quentin Tarantino’s great gift as an artist is the way he’s able to quote cinema’s past while saying something new. He can take a stroll down memory lane without buying a house there. In his new film, the slow-simmering Western The Hateful Eight, he sets out on a classic adventure right out of John Ford’s Stagecoach and ends up in the caffeinated chaos that closed Reservoir Dogs. Whether you want to go with him on that long journey is a different matter. As someone who’s loved almost all of Tarantino’s films, I felt—for the first time—something close to disappointment. At their best, his films give off the giddy sensation of too much—that he has so many inspired ideas vibrating in his celluloid brain that he overwhelms us. But The Hateful Eight doesn’t have enough ideas. Set almost entirely in a snowed-in saloon, the story’s so spare it doesn’t warrant either its three-hour running time (including an overture and intermission) or his use of 70mm projection. It’s narratively and visually claustrophobic. Fortunately, the director’s genius for casting hasn’t abandoned him. Kurt Russell has a blast chewing on Tarantino’s florid dialogue as a grizzled bounty hunter, Jennifer Jason Leigh shines through a bloody smile as the outlaw he’s taking to the hangman, and ­Samuel L. Jackson is at his ripsnorting Jacksoniest 
 as a surly Union officer. Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Walton Goggins, and Demian Bichir round out the odious octet, sniffing one another like dogs in a cage. While genre fans will dig Tarantino’s nods to whiteout spaghetti Westerns like The Great Silence 
 (a connection goosed by Ennio Morricone’s sublime red-sauce score), others will be left wondering if that’s all there is. In this case, the answer, sadly, is yes. C+

The Hateful Eight
  • Movie
  • 187 minutes