Ross O’Carroll-Kelly, comic creation of journalist Paul Howard, has a son who has been involved in various nefarious dealings. The son, Ronan, has a friend from the Dublin underworld known only as “Buckets o’ Blood”.
“Buckets o’ Blood” could easily be Quentin Tarantino’s nom-de-plume. Inevitably towards the end of his latest film, The Hateful Eight, the set and all the characters are bathed in spurts, floods, puddles, marshes and swathes of the stuff.
It is a pity that he seems to think that now has to stick to some kind of formula. Lots of talk, shady characters with dark pasts, more talk, some action, more talk, insults, conflict, action, then gunfire, stabbings, poisonings, blood, gore, blood and more blood, and then some more blood.
It was shocking and thrilling twenty years ago with Reservoir Dogs, now it’s just predictable and tedious. And it is a pity, because Tarantino is a masterful filmmaker in so many ways, and The Hateful Eight is intriguing and compelling and impossible to ignore until the scarlet denouement.
It is a number of years after the American Civil War and bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russel) is taking his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh, fantastic in this, just nominated for an Oscar) back to Red Rock to collect his bounty. On the way he picks up a couple of strays, including Tarantino regular, Samuel L. Jackson, as Major Warren, also a bounty hunter.
They all end up lodging in Minnie’s haberdashery, an inn in the Wyoming wildlands. A blizzard starts up and they are shut in to the inn, along with another four suspect characters, including one who claims to be the hangman of Red Rock, the one charged with the execution of the bounty hunter’s prisoner.
And this is where the film really gets going, as Samuel L. Jackson’s former Yankee Major confronts a Confederate General who was responsible for the massacre of a battalion of black troops during the war. We soon see that pretty much all of the characters, as the film’s title suggests, are violent and suspect in their own way, all with their own brand of dark secrets.
The action develops, and picks up speed as a poisoner gets to work. From then on it is death and mayhem, double-crossing and quick-drawing, until there is almost no-one untouched by the bloodletting.
What Tarantino writes well above all are these long scenes full of tension and suspense, dialogues that go on and on and on, well past where most other directors would cut. He is not afraid to let a scene develop, to build the intrigue and then let the tension rise, subside, and then finally reach a crescendo. Much of the film is masterful, fascinating, impossible to look away from.
But inevitably, he gives in to his instincts, and turns the massacre dial up to 11. The subtleties of the previous two hours are mostly forgotten in the barrage of gunfire and gore.
It is worth imagining what kind of movie Tarantino could make if his budget for fake blood was slashed, and he was forced to work out his plots without resorting to killing practically all of his characters. It could be something really special, like Pulp Fiction was. But right now, there doesn’t seem to be anyone willing to tell him that less is more when it comes to spraying the set with crimson. It is a pity.
Yet despite this, The Hateful Eight is worth seeing, like everything Tarantino does is worth seeing. No-one else makes films like him, his is a particular kind of bloody genius.