Synopsis: “While racing toward the town of Red Rock in post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) encounter another bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and a man who claims to be a sheriff. Hoping to find shelter from a blizzard, the group travels to a stagecoach stopover located on a mountain pass. Greeted there by four strangers, the eight travelers soon learn that they may not make it to their destination after all.”
Review: However grandiose the image and wide the Ultra Panavision shot, The Hateful Eight’s plot is rather pedestrian, its scope somewhat meager. That style trumps substance is a rarity for the video-clerk-turned-auteur but at a beefy 182 minutes, Quentin Tarantino’s eight feature film is his most showy and unwieldy venture yet. With a 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video at a 2.75:1 1080p transfer, it’s also stunning to behold at home. Populating this three-hour-plus time frame is material better suited to a brisk 100 minutes, stretched to breaking point, as if on a hangman’s noose, and largely lacking in QT’s customarily acerbic screenwriting prowess. That’s not to say that excellence doesn’t have its place here. Take Robert Richardson’s mighty snow-blasted cinematography which has been treated to a favorable conversion off its 65 MM original print, Ennio Morricone’s bassoon-heavy Oscar-winning score, ominous but lyrical quicksand that sounds clean and seductive on and a small handful of performances spilling over with misanthropic bite. Standouts include Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samuel L. Jackson and Walton Goggins. Tarantino’s typical 20/20 intuitive vision, egged by a dealing ability to play both artist and audience, has veered from the mark, absconding into a cinephiliac fit of geeking out over reviving antique technologies rather than inventing new ones. On the whole, an interesting if excessively long-winded exercise for the recently Western-obsessed filmmaker though one that stretches the limits of modern filmmaking (by winding back the clocks) more than it pushes narrative boundaries. (B-)
Features: If the film itself is lacking, the bonus features offered are even more egregious. With a total of 12 minutes of special features, don’t buy this cut of The Hateful Eight if you’re looking to truly expand your knowledge on its making.
-Beyond the Eight: A Behind the Scenes Look (4:58) – This behind the scenes featurette offers little of substance beyond a few cast and crew members congratulating Quentin on his achievement and a few actors discussing the shooting process and working with such a lauded cast in brevity.
-Sam Jackson’s Guide to Glorious 70mm (7:49) – Sam Jackson walks us through the history of 70mm Road Shows, giving context to the importance of The Hateful Eight‘s unorthodox release structure. A compelling addition though the fact that it’s designed to get people in the theater (and therefore has little bearing on this Blu-Ray release) isn’t lost on me.
Verdict: Any self-respecting QT fan has already seen The Hateful Eight and this version of its release, with such limited special features, doesn’t quite warrant a purchase. Call it a rental.