Tarantino’s latest effort is an unapologetic love letter to the western genre and an extremely self-indulgent exercise of cinematic talent. Overly long shots of stagecoach and horses in the snowy landscape of Wyoming, dragged-on banter between untrusting and untrustworthy characters are a few things that do not work as well as planned. The gist of the story is: eight strangers (more or less) are forced by a blizzard to spend a day together at Minnie’s Haberdashery (thanks Tarantino, that was my word of the day!) and bounty hunter John “the Hangman” Ruth (Russell) worries that someone will try to free his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jason Leigh) before he can deliver her to the sheriff of Red Rock. At this point, the audience has already been introduced to John, Daisy, another bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren (Jackson), the coach driver O.B. (James Parks) and Chris Mannix (Goggins) during the aforementioned stagecoach ride with some clever exchanges. At the haberdashery they find a peculiar gallery of characters: hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Roth), retired confederate general Smithers (Dern), world-weary cowboy Joe Gage (Madsen) and Bob (Demian Bichir), who is looking after the place since Minnie and her husband are away. As a side note: the tally is up to nine not eight but I guess poor O.B. doesn’t really count.
The stage is set for the drama to unfold and the viewer is waiting for the explosion of violence in Tarantino’s style, although not before we are regaled with the background stories of most of the characters… or so we think. This western is suddenly turned into a murder mystery theatre piece, which is far from a bad thing as Tarantino already proved with Reservoir Dogs and the heist movie genre. It is however a little too slow-burning and at times you feel the lack of a more ruthless editing. With that said, all the actors but especially Russell, Jason Leigh and Jackson are a riot and a joy to watch, showing their acting chops (and having fun too!) and drawing the viewer in.
A minor quibble I have is about the soundtrack: Tarantino’s dream come true of having Ennio Morricone composing a score for one of his movies might not be all that great, it ended up being less personal and eclectic, I enjoyed Django’s music much more. As for the film as a whole, it is definitely not my favorite of Tarantino’s oeuvre, it doesn’t have enough bite and the pace is too slow. Barely up to par —7/10