Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie, “The Hateful Eight,” may have been meant for the big screen—the 70mm format, to be precise—but that doesn’t mean fans of the acclaimed writer-director shouldn’t check it out on DVD or Blu-ray.
Although not as strong as “Pulp Fiction,” “Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & 2” or “Django Unchained,” “The Hateful Eight” is still an entertaining Western that will stick with viewers much longer than some of Tarantino’s other works. Taking place sometime after the Civil War, the film follows bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) as he travels in a private stagecoach through a snow-covered Wyoming to the town of Red Rock to watch his latest capture, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), hang for her crimes. Along the way, he picks up two men stranded in the wilderness: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a former Union soldier turned bounty hunter who is looking for a ride to Red Rock to turn in captures of his own, and a Southern renegade by the name of Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins, “Justified”) who claims to be the town’s new sheriff.
With a blizzard hot on the foursome’s trail, the passengers seek refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass. Rather than finding the proprietor, however, the four are greeted by four unfamiliar faces: a Mexican worker named Bob (Demián Bichir, “The Bridge”) who claims to be looking after Minnie’s Haberdashery while Minnie is away; a Confederate general named Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern); a quiet cowboy named Joe Gage (Michael Madsen); and Red Rock’s supposed hangman, Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth).
Ruth is immediately suspicious of the individuals, convinced one if not all of them are working with Daisy to set her free. Warren has suspicions of his own as well. The rest of the film deals with who these mysterious men really are and whether or not any of the so-called ‘Hateful Eight’ will make it to Red Rock alive.
Despite the film’s 168-minute runtime, Tarantino does a decent job of keeping things moving at a fast enough pace so as not to lose the audience’s interest. His script has just enough humor in it to keep what’s basically a two-hour inquisition from ever becoming too dull as Ruth and Warren try to figure out everyone’s motives. Once everyone’s true identities are revealed and the action begins in the third act, it’s just as over the top as anything fans have come to expect from the visionary yet violent filmmaker.
While something is lost watching the Ultra Panavision-filmed epic (which is the largest format a movie can be filmed in) on TV, the gorgeous cinematography by Robert Richardson is still worth noting. Tarantino’s use of chapters to break up the action on-screen isn’t necessarily needed, but does add a certain Tarantino touch to the movie. The introduction of a narrator in the second half of the film (Tarantino, of course) is a bit jarring without having the intermission the Roadshow presentations of “The Hateful Eight” had but surprisingly doesn’t distract viewers from the story—if anything, audiences will find themselves wishing the narration had showed up sooner in the script.
One of the film’s biggest faults is crediting Channing Tatum in the opening credits, foreshadowing one of the movie’s biggest surprises. Luckily for Tarantino, viewers become so enthralled by the eight characters on-screen for the majority of the film that they don’t even wonder when Tatum becomes a part of the story. In fact, viewers almost forget Tatum is a part of the cast until he shows up near the end of the movie.
For a film as detailed as “The Hateful Eight,” the DVD (Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Company, MSRP: $29.98) and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack with Digital HD (MSRP: $39.99) releases are surprisingly bare bones. There’s a quick featurette that takes a look at the making of the film, “Beyond the Eight: A Behind-the-Scenes Look,” where the cast and crew sing each other’s well-deserved praises more than anything else. Aside from learning that Tarantino is that rare director who is both “an auteur filmmaker and an audience all at once,” the only other thing viewers will take away from the frivolous featurette is that Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh were basically chained to each other for three months.
“Sam Jackson’s Guide to Glorious 70mm” is a bit meatier, though basically pointless since it’s just an advertisement for the Roadshow screenings of “The Hateful Eight” that viewers can no longer see. The overexcited actor does his best to sell the 70mm screenings, which were held on Christmas day, telling viewers it’s the “only present you’ll want this Christmas.” Although audiences will learn some interesting information while watching the featurette, such as that “The Hateful Eight” was only the eleventh film to be filmed in Ultra Panavision and that 1966’s “Khartoum” was the last movie to ever use the Ultra Panavision anamorphic camera lenses before Robert Richardson dusted them off, listening to everyone talk about the Roadshow projection’s glorious detail only leaves at-home viewers wishing they could go back in time to experience the 70mm showings themselves.
Sadly, those two brief featurettes, which combined clock in at less than 15 minutes, are the only extras included on the release. There’s no commentary track from Tarantino, no featurette discussing how the movie was almost never filmed after the original script leaked, nothing on Kurt Russell accidentally destroying an antique guitar on loan from the Martin Guitar Museum, not even anything on what was cut out of the Roadshow version of “The Hateful Eight” for the theatrical release. Viewers are left wanting more, which says a lot since they just invested almost three hours of their life watching the film. Die-hard Tarantino fans can only hope a Special Edition release is planned for the future that includes more behind-the-scenes tidbits (a featurette on Ennio Morricone’s Academy Award-winning score, perhaps?) and the extended Roadshow version of the movie.
While the extras are hardly a reason to purchase “The Hateful Eight” on DVD or Blu-ray, the film is still a worthy addition to any cineaste’s home video collection. Sure it may be a lot of talking and beating up on Jennifer Jason Leigh, but “The Hateful Eight” is nevertheless an engaging mystery that keeps viewers intrigued until its surprisingly poignant ending.
“The Hateful Eight” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack with Digital HD.