The Hateful Eight
Direction: Quentin Tarantino
Actors: Samuel L Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh
As in his directorial debut Reservoir Dogs (1992), and the equally exciting subsequent features, the enfant terrible of American cinema bores deep into the core of genre films and comes up with gold in The Hateful Eight. Structured in six parts with appropriate chapter headings (the influence of Jean-Luc Godard is still discernible), the sordid Western is set shortly after the end of the US Civil War. A bounty hunter (Kurt Russell, in fine comic fettle) is transporting a female fugitive (Leigh) across the snowy expanses of Wyoming. They are on a stagecoach to the next town, where the captive will be tried and hanged for murder. En route, the duo is joined by a kill-happy Major (Jackson) and a newbie sheriff (Walton Goggins, impressive). Engulfed by a blizzard, the quartet seeks refuge in a remote mountain cabin occupied by four shady passengers, including the town’s hangman (Tim Roth) and a taciturn cowboy (Michael Madsen).
The rest of the blood-splattered narrative unfolds at the stagecoach stopover. Trigger fingers become itchy as tensions escalate between the eight strangers. While the excellent ensemble includes Tarantino regulars Roth, Madsen and Jackson, who has collaborated with the director on all but two of his films, the real casting coup is Jennifer Jason Leigh. The long-underrated actress (Miami Blues, Single White Female) steals the show as the constantly brutalised outlaw.