Well, I didn’t hate it. QT is back and bigger than ever. But better?
In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.
From the beautifully shot opening, I was entranced. The 70mm film format capturing the picturesque cinematography of QT stalwart Robert Richardson perfectly. The credit sequence accompanied by an original Ennio Morricone score (The first in 30 years) brought back that old school nostalgia of the classic Westerns.
However that nostalgia soon dissipated when Russell’s John Ruth crossed paths with Samuel L Jackson’s Major Warren sitting on a cushion of dead bodies. After an initially tense and intriguing introduction with QT’s chapters popping up left, right and centre, the first hour soon churned along at an agonizing snail’s pace.
There wasn’t enough tidbits, stylish dialogue or suspense to keep me going. It was almost mind numbing. I felt a sick feeling in my stomach. Russell, Leigh and Jackson were doing their best BUT it wasn’t entertaining enough. A running joke about Jackson receiving a letter from Lincoln did the job BUT I found the first act lacking. That was until they reached Minnie’s Haberdashery.
A grotty shack with even grittier lodgers. It really was a case of the waiting game. BUT was it going to be worth it? Trapped for the next few days during a blizzard, the tension bubbled away. Each shady individual casually interrogated.
Russell and Jackson were superb. They had a real rapport and ran the show for me. Leigh was brilliant. A real rough looking menace with an acid tongue. It was great to see a good portion of the QT regulars popping up in this. What a supporting cast. However, some characters didn’t quite deliver as much as I had expected.
I have been a big fan of Walton Goggins for some time after some cracking turns in The Shield and Justified. QT finally gave him the platform he deserved as the gullible dim wit Sheriff Chris Mannix. He was perfect. His dumb theorizing and poor deducting skills delivered the laughs.
Tim Roth was great as the delightfully flamboyant Oswaldo Mobray. If anything, I wanted more of him in this. Bruce Dern (Nebraska) and Michael Madsen weren’t quite as interesting as I’d hoped. Once Jackson delved into Dern’s past a little more, things got going BUT Madsen was a highly unmemorable red herring. Mumbling and grimacing away to no avail this time. I was entertained more by James Parks (Kill Bill) as the unlucky stage coach driver O.B. and Demian Birchir’s (The Heat) Senor Bob.
At first, it had my curiousity. BUT once Jackson’s Major began to suspect foul play and connect the dots, it finally got my attention. It was funny how convenient everyone’s back stories were. Ruth conveniently bumps into the town’s new sheriff and hangman at the same time that he’s bringing in a huge bounty? Hmm . . .
After that insufferable and completely unnecessary intermission*, the second act redeemed itself. A tense little nail biter with a few twists here, some grandiose Jackson monologues there and all the demented mayhem you could expect from a QT flick. It was bloody, violent and ridiculous. Typical of the man and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You really couldn’t take your eyes off it. Lulled into a false sense of security. The finale was every bit as outrageous and brilliant as I could hope for. I was ashamed to doubt QT. It was always going to be tough to top Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction BUT this certainly wasn’t QT’s weakest effort. That honour goes to Jackie Brown or Death Proof.
Overlong and a little patchy in parts BUT once it going, it was everything you could want from a Tarantino penned Western.
*The intermission was a joke. I don’t know whether in the States QT did something special in those 15 minutes BUT over here, it did nothing. Probably didn’t help that the cinema had already closed the food and drink stand. Logic? None, apparently.