A coupe of years after its release, I got the chance to watch the much-hyped movie, The Hateful Eight. It was a decent mix of characters and emotions, smothered under a blizzard (like the setting) of violence, profanity, and run-time. Some spoilers ahead….
The story takes place in some kind of Revisionist, post-Civil War west – specifically, on the road to Red Rock, Wyoming. How long it’s been after the Civil War isn’t revealed; if I had to guess, it was between 4-8 years.
Samuel L. Jackson (“Major Marquis Warren”) is shown standing in a blizzard, in a Union officer’s uniform, trying to figure out how he’s going to transport 3 bodies to Red Rock, after what looks like a wagon crash. Up rolls Kurt Russell (“The Hangman” John Ruth) in a wagon, escorting a battered-looking, and soon-to-be-battered-more, Jennifer Jason Leigh (“Daisy Domergue”). Domergue (Lee) is accused of murder; Hunt is bringing her to Red Rock to hang. After exchanging pleasantries, the 3 head off…. only to run into Walton Groggins (Chris Mannix, the self-proclaimed “New Sheriff of Red Rock), staggering along in the snow. He also gets in the wagon, and the group departs for Red Rock. Mannix (Groggins) has some slightly uncomfortable back-and-forth with Warren (Jackson) along the way: Mannix is a member of the “Lost Cause”: a group still fighting the fight for the Southern cause, so to speak. Meanwhile, Ruth – suspicious of everything – starts to loosen up just a tad to Warren, as Warren produces a hand-written note from Abraham Lincoln.
The 4 have to stop at a waypoint called “Minnie’s Haberdashery”, due to rapidly deteriorating conditions. Once there (they have to kick in the front door because it was nailed shut to keep the wind from constantly blowing it open; this “kicking in the door whenever anyone enters, then nailing it shut” is a humorous, recurring theme throughout the movie, as everyone inside is trying to outshout the other person to ‘nail the door shut!’), they meet 4 other characters: Joe Gage (played by Mark Madsen), a quiet guy on his way outside of Red Rock to visit his Mom (Ruth is suspicious of this); Oswaldo Mobray (played by Tim Roth), an Englishman who is a Hangman – the Hangman of Red Rock that John Ruth is going to see; General Sandford “Sandy” Smithers (Bruce Dern), a Confederate Officer who stays pretty silent; and Bob, a.k.a. “Marco the Mexican” (Demian Bichir), who is watching over the place while Minnie is away, visiting her mother.
Here, I stop for a second. The movie is presented in “Chapters”, with a Narrator sometimes interjecting with a brief introduction. The arrival of the 4 in the wagon is the start of Chapter 2.
Once all 8 get past the introductions, including Ruth distrusting everything that breathes, the tensions start rising. It starts when Ruth disarms everyone but Warren. It escalates when Mannix disputes the suthenticity of Warren’s letter from Lincoln. Warren admits that it’s a fake (“I use it to disarm White folks” is the short summation of Warren’s reasonings), earning the ire of Ruth. Warren then goes to confront Gen. Smithers. He reveals that he and Smithers fought against each other at the Battle of Baton Rouge; he also reveals that Smithers executed a LOT of Black soldiers in that battle. Smithers dismisses him and barely refuses to even acknowledge him (using an impressive barrage of ‘N’-words); Warrens ups the ante by telling Smithers (very graphically) that he tortured, raped, and killed his son. Warren puts a gun by Smithers; when he reaches for his own gun, Warren shoots him dead. That ended Chapter 2.
Chapter 3 starts with the Narrator’s revelation: while the Warren-Smithers confrontations was going on, someone poisoned the coffee pot that was sitting on a stove… and Daisy Domergue saw who did it.
John Ruth and another fellow in the house named O.B. Jackson drink the coffee; Mannix pours a cup but doesn’t drink. Ruth sits down and handcuffs himself to Daisy. Ruth and Jackson start vomiting blood (including a nasty scene where Ruth, trying to kill Daisy after he reaalizes something’s very wrong, vomits bloods into her face). Jackson dies shortly afterwards; Daisy shoots Ruth with his own gun and kills him.
Warren, rightly spooked, orders everyone that’s still alive – Bob, Joe Gage, Mobrey – to stand against a wall, while he orders a surprised Mannix to stand beside him (a surprising move, since those two have been at odds since Moment 1). He also disarms Daisy, who is still cuffed to Ruth. He announces that something is not right with Minnie being gone; also, at least one person left has been aiding Daisy in some way. With some clever deduction, Warren figures out the Minnie isn’t “out of town”: she is dead, killed by Bob. He shoots and kills Bob. Warren threatens to execute Daisy, Joe Gage steps forward and admits that he poisoned the coffee. This leads to a short but intense sequence: someone hiding in the floor shoots upwards, hitting Warren in his nether regions; Mannix, suspicious of Gage for the middle 1/3 of the movie, aims his gun at Gage, only to get shot by Mobrey (who was hiding a gun); Mannix, badly wounded, shoots Mobrey, fatally wounding him; Mannix and Warren black out, to end Chapter 3.
Chapter 4 is a flashback: it starts with Mobrey. Gage, Bob, and a 4th man named Jody (Channing Tatum) arriving at the Haberdashery. They seem pretty friendly and cozy up to Minnie and her staff… then coldly execute everyone but Smithers, who Jody recognizes as a Southerner. Jody reveals (with Daisy explaining later) that he is Daisy’s brother, and his gang are going to ambush John Ruth and free Daisy (so Warren was right: someone was working with Daisy). Jody threatens silence from Smithers; the gang cleans up the bodies; Jody hides in the celler, as Ruth’s stagecoach pulls up.
Chapter 5 is back in the present: Daisy is still cuffed to Ruth; Mannix and Warren are alive but barely; Mobrey is in even worse shape; Gage is still against the wall, but unharmed. Mannix and Warren force Jody out of the cellar, with another threat to Daisy. Warren tells Jody to surrender, he does, and is head-shot by Warren because “he took too long”.
Daisy reveals the hidden part of the gang’ plan: 15 more gang members are headed to Red Rock when the blizzard stops, to kill the Sheriff (Mannix) and ransack the town. Daisy wants a deal: she wants Mannix to kill Warren, earning him the bounties on everyone but Jody (and also keeping his life). She and Mobrey start taunting Mobrey, with more lobs of ‘N’-words; he responds by shooting Daisy in the foot and Mobrey in the leg (killing Mobrey). Gage, still too quiet, draws a hidden revolver but is shot dead by Warren and Mannix. Mannix says “no deal” but passes out from blood loss; Warren runs out of bullets. This gives Daisy the moment she needs to cut Ruth’s arm off with a nearby saw, freeing herself. She grabs another of Ruth’s guns but is shot by an awakened, but still badly wounded, Mannix. Mannix wants to finish her off but Warren, remembering how Ruth trusted him, said to finish her the way Ruth intended. They hang Daisy from the rafters of the ceiling (this scene went on uncomfortably long).
The movie ends with Warren and Mannix, possibly dying, reading the forged Lincoln letter. Their fates weren’t revealed.
This was a decent movie but it definitely is not a “watch for enjoyment” movie. It is not for the faint of heart. There is a good mix of dry humor (Russell, Jackson, Goggins) and seriousness in the movie. However, there is a ton of graphic violence: heads exploding from gun shots, for example. Samuel L. Jackson and Walter Goggins’ characters get shot multiple times, with brutal-looking wounds. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character perhaps takes the most amount of physical punishment I’ve seen a woman take in a non-Horror movie: she was punched/elbowed in the face at least 3 times, shot twice, had food thrown at her, and hanged. If you can’t deal with violence in about 75% of the movie, this one’s not for you.
Also, the language is pretty period-specific. There are dozens of instances of the ‘N’-word, as well as a lot of profanity. If you aren’t comfortable with either, you will not make it past the scene when Kurt Russell and Sam Jackson first meet. The length may also turn some off: it checked in at 2:54, almost double what some movies are, these days.
I liked the movie. However, I don’t see too many voluntary repeat viewings in my future. The movie is a little long, and a little too heavy, for me to sit down one afternoon and think: “I should watch a movie – let’s go with this one!”.
Heavy, like a snowfall after a blizzard.