Director: Quentin Tarantino
Unlike Forest Gump’s box of Dairy Milk without the helpful map, when it comes to the films of Quentin Tarantino, you invariably know what you’re going to get.
A skipful of violence -bloody and graphic – a non-linear storyline, cross cultural, anachronistic references, snappy, whip-smart dialogue and the odd mcguffin thrown in, just because he can.
In anyone else’s hands, this would be boring and predictable – some say it is – but for this viewer, QT’s excesses and compulsions make his work anything but – and always, but always watchable.
As ever, there’s not much of storyline to work with.
Two bounty hunters and an aspiring sheriff convene in the snowy wilds of Wyoming, a totally unlikely premise given the surroundings, but one which serves not only to introduce the characters but also to depict the desperation and randomness of Western life circa 1870.
John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth, a grizzly Kurt Russell, is travelling in a stagecoach with his latest prize, Daisy Domergue, a blood spattered punching bag wanted dead or alive in the town of Red Rock for crimes as yet undisclosed but indubitably – to judge by her insolent, sassy demeanour – wicked and wanton.
In exchange for her unceasing lack of contrition and smart arse comments, Daisy receives more than a few backhanders from Russell, acts of brutality which have resulted in the film being called misogynistic by some reviewers, but Tarantino is smarter than that.
The character, played beautifully by Jennifer Jason Lee, is a complex one, black-hearted and funny in turn and possessing an inner strength and substance which makes her less of a victim and more of a equal despite being surrounded by male villains of the worst, unredeemable kind.
Caught in a wild snowstorm, the stagecoach rests up at Minnie’s Haberdashery where we encounter the rest of the cast, not one of whom is anything other than an unpleasant, potentially dangerous wretch.
QT stalwarts, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern, all good if hardly stretched performance-wise are here and the rest of the movie plays within four walls, making it seem more like a stage play, though one shot in a sumptuous widescreen, 70mm format.
Though the plot is in my view, somewhat predictable, you’ll have to see it yourself to confirm that view, since,notwithstanding the usual QT’s twist and turns, the whole is much more than the parts, even though the parts are very, very good.
Samuel L. Jackson is as great as he always is, even though he’s playing a slightly modified version of Jules from Pulp Fiction, but then this is an actor who can make an TV advert for a betting company interesting. (Not as easy as it looks, eh Ray Winstone?)
Kurt Russell references a later career John Wayne, though it’s more a subtle homage than an impersonation, even if he does manage to slyly slip in one of the Duke’s most famous lines. Yep, that one.
TV and movie references abound of course, Gunsmoke, Bonanza and The Virginian all cited; even Blazing Saddles makes an appearance, because that’s the way Quentin likes it.
As well as the brilliant Jennifer Jason Lee, Walton Goggins impresses with a nuanced, funny, enigmatic performance as aspirant sheriff Chris Mannix which all but steals the film, showing his undaunted ability as well as QT’s gift for getting the best out of his players.
The denouement is – as always – bloody but unresolved forcing the viewer to consider whether this is a movie which deals with cultural, racial, gender, political or historical issues or is just a damn good watch. Either way, it’s a winner.
That’ll be the day.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
Any one of his previous seven films. Obviously.