Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2015. Visiona Romantica, Double Feature Films, FilmColony. Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino. Cinematography by Robert Richardson. Produced by Richard N. Gladstein, Shannon McIntosh, Stacey Sher. Music by Ennio Morricone. Production Design by Yohei Taneda. Costume Design by Courtney Hoffman. Film Editing by Fred Raskin. Academy Awards 2015. Golden Globe Awards 2015. Las Vegas Film Critics Awards 2015. National Board of Review Awards 2015. Washington Film Critics Awards 2015.
Samuel L. Jackson blocks the path of a coach making its way to Red Rock across a nineteenth century snow-capped Wyoming ridge, begging a ride from its passengers. Jackson is a bounty hunter hauling in a few dead bodies for the reward, while riding comfortably inside the coach is another (Kurt Russell) whose charge is a slightly daffy criminal (Jennifer Jason Leigh) whom he wants to bring in alive. After they are joined by the new sherriff of Red Rock (Walton Goggins), the four progress to a mountain-top resting spot where the drama becomes a western And Then There Were None. A hangman (Tim Roth), a writer (Michael Madsen), and an old southern civil war general (Bruce Dern) are waiting out the blizzard in the cabin being run by Demian Bichir, who is watching the place for the real owners who have gone on a trip. The travelers enter and Russell suspects that one of them is actually there to help spring Leigh from her trap, and sniffing out the possible rat gets more complicated when the coffee pot is poisoned and the bodies start to pile up. Brittle allegiances and past woes are brought to the fore as Quentin Tarantino gives a fine cast plenty of room to show off their impressive skills in this claustrophobic epic that pays tributes to his beloved spaghetti westerns of the past. The overture, widescreen photography and miniscule detail long to place it in the realm of Leone’s Once Upon a Time In The West, while the moments of gruesome violence makes it clear that we are well within the realm of his imagination. So familiar are all the trappings of this enjoyable but not groundbreaking film that a sense of déjà vu permeates all of it: Tarantino criticizes American culture without resorting to the ironic revenge fantasies of Django Unchained, his plot showing an America that was built on greed, misogyny, a little gay panic and the decided tension between vigilante lawlessness and the desire to unify society with rules and order, but his plot is not quite rich enough for the space it takes up. There aren’t enough twists or character investigations to make the three hours fly by, the dialogue isn’t his finest work, and a third-act flashback only serves to remind us that he has done this sort of thing much better in the past. It’s not a waste of time, however, particularly for the pleasures of Ennio Morricone’s gorgeous score, seeing Jackson and Russell rule the screen while Goggins and Leigh provide plenty of unforgettable moments, but only Tarantino’s most diehard fans will leave the theatre buzzing with excitement.