Some time after the American Civil War, and in snowbound Wyoming Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) has hit a snag. He is a bounty hunter who makes sure to kill his targets when he catches up with them, but with the bodies he has recently gathered his old horse could not cope so he has been waiting at this pass for someone to happen along and help him out. And when that occurs, it is a stagecoach whose driver, O.B. (James Parks), tells him he cannot assist because his passenger wants no part of any hangers-on until he gets his own bounty to civilisation. This passenger is John Ruth (Kurt Russell), an ex-Union Army officer who is in the same line of business as Warren, but his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) doesn't look too intimidating...
Of course, the point of writer and director Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight was that the Civil War hadn't really ended back in the mid-nineteenth century, and to all intents and purposes it was still going on what with all the news reports punctuated by tales of Americans killing one another and racial violence, most notably perpetrated by the authorities, a subject close to his heart. Around the time this was released he was making an enemy of the police for himself by claiming white cops were shooting black suspects without any kind of reasonable circumstances for their actions, and in the film his characters proved themselves a bunch of villains who were willing to dole out the bloodshed on their fellow Americans, no matter what colour the victims or killers were.
It was a deliberately provocative stance, yet the reaction it received more or less ignored the politics and accepted the events as what happened in Westerns anyway, the old time ones Tarantino was interested in evoking at least. He actually said he was more influenced by the John Carpenter cult science fiction chiller The Thing, and there was certainly a strong element of that with its frozen setting, rapidly diminishing cast and a certain Mr Russell in a prominent role, but more than that the sense of paranoia that any one of the people you're meeting could potentially kill you was very reminiscent of the earlier work. Albeit this was arguably more unsettling since there was no supernatural alien explanation for that irrational danger from others, it was threaded into their humanity.
Therefore if you watched those aforementioned news reports and saw your fellow humans visiting all sorts of terrible behaviour on their fellow humans, you would get where Tarantino was coming from, even if it was the very modern social problems of his homeland he was obsessing over here. It was as if Reservoir Dogs had developed a conscience when the characters are holed up in this tavern to get on each other's nerves with their possible bullshit stories and not bullshit at all acts of violence, because as we saw in a flashback, the location used to be a dream of harmony that stumbled into a nightmare when this lot showed up, thus shattering any illusions that America had ever been an perfect nation at some point in an idealised past because there will always be some bastard who is out to upset the applecart with their prejudices and outright hatred of their chosen targets.
The structure was that of a mystery, and a murder mystery at that only we're not yet sure at the beginning who will be (or has been) murdered, but in light of where it is set you can bet both can be applied no matter what part of history it has landed in (the exact period is unclear). As always with Tarantino, the dialogue was important, possibly the most important aspect, and he assembled a group of talented thesps to deliver it, with Jackson finally securing top billing in this frequent collaborator's film and seizing every opportunity to live up to that position, Russell taking to the Western as ever like a duck to water, and Leigh a nasty piece of work who nevertheless comes to exemplify how murder is justified in the minds of the murderers while they protest that they were simply acting in the right. Make no mistake, though the deaths were over the top and gory, every one of them diminished the people in that tavern, even the most objectionable, this was no cartoon action flick where the victims were fodder for mindless entertainment. The result was one of Tarantino's strongest, most deceptively thoughtful efforts, and the fact it finally won Ennio Morricone his Oscar for the score justified the whole enterprise.
American writer/director and one of the most iconic filmmakers of the 1990s. The former video store clerk made his debut in 1992 with the dazzling crime thriller Reservoir Dogs, which mixed razor sharp dialogue, powerhouse acting and brutal violence in controversial style. Sprawling black comedy thriller Pulp Fiction was one of 1994's biggest hits and resurrected John Travolta's career, much as 1997's Elmore Leonard adaptation Jackie Brown did for Pam Grier.