Tag Archives: michael madsen

The Hateful Eight – Review

14 Jan

When Quentin Tarantino released Reservoir Dogs in 1992, it was clear that he was to be destined for stardom, but it was Pulp Fiction that made him one of the most recognized and often most abrasive cinematic voices of our time. But that’s part of the fun of watching a new Tarantino movie. You really just never know what to expect. To be quite honest, I’ve been getting a little sick of all the Tarantino hype. This made me feel a little bit less than excited to see The Hateful Eight, but this film turned out to be a breath of fresh air. If Reservoir Dogs meets a spaghetti western, meets Agatha Christie doesn’t sound appealing, then I don’t know what would.

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On a snowy road in Wyoming, a bounty hunter named John “the Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) comes across Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), another bounty hunter with more ruthless tactics. Warren joins Ruth and his bounty, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), in their carriage as they are both making their way to the town of Red Rock. They also pick up the future sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), but have to stop when a major blizzard forces them to take shelter in Minnie’s Haberdashery, which is actually a stagecoach lodge with a more than deceiving name. Things don’t seem right at Minnie’s Haberdashery, and it becomes clear that some of the other inhabitants are planning something sinister. Now it becomes a drawn out fight to stay alive and figure out who has something up their sleeves and why.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first because The Hateful Eight is nowhere near a perfect movie and still doesn’t stack up with Tarantino’s earlier efforts. Is this movie a huge ego project for Tarantino? Yes it is. Pretty much everything has been since Pulp Fiction, but I’m not going to hold that against him because I enjoy a lot of his movies quite a bit. The Hateful Eight drags on and on in the first 45 minutes of its nearly three hour runtime with the kind of dialogue you’ve come to expect since the first scene of Inglourious Basterds, which I still think is his masterpiece. The only problem is that the dialogue is far too expository and nowhere near interesting enough. It’s pretty much just the characters in the stagecoach telling each other about their pasts so the audience knows how quirky they are. 45 minutes of that. My God, it was really killing me. Thankfully, things start getting a lot better when they get to the cabin.

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What made Inglourious Basterds such a cool movie was that it took the feel of classic war films and a comic book style of rules and mushed them to become one of my all time favorite movies. The main reason I like The Hateful Eight as much as I do is because of those same reasons. This movie takes a spaghetti western format and injects a classic murder mystery with the style that Tarantino is known for. Speaking of things this guy is known for, it’s really cool that the majority of this movie takes place in Minnie’s Haberdashery. Someone said before I saw this movie that it would work great as a stage play, and I couldn’t agree more. I love when movies feel like this, and it only makes me compare it more to Tarantino’s exceptional debut, Reservoir Dogs.

There’s also plenty of things in The Hateful Eight that I was not expecting, and that’s a good thing. Tarantino has made it quite clear that the shock value in his movies are there on purpose, and that’s part of the fun of watching his movies. While this movie does feel very self indulgent when it comes to the violence and shocking scenes, I still can’t deny that they weren’t effective. Also the cast of actors in this movie is one of the best of the year. Jennifer Jason Leigh was fantastic as Daisy Domergue and has earned herself an Academy Award nomination for her performance. I was also thrilled to see Walton Goggins, who is one of the most underrated actors out there, get a lot of time to shine at the forefront of the movie. Finally, this film has the best original score you’ll hear all year. It’s already won the Golden Globe, and if it doesn’t take home an Oscar for it, I’ll eat my elbow.

I’ve been really on the fence with Quentin Tarantino recently, and I still have my reservations about what’s to come. While that is said, I enjoyed The Hateful Eight far more than I thought I was. I still say that Tarantino just has to tone it down a little bit and not work to make another movie simply to show how awesome he is. A lot of people are saying that this is his worst movie, but they must have all forgotten Jackie Brown. While this isn’t as satisfying as some of his other work, I still can’t deny the fun that I had with it.

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Donnie Brasco – Review

19 Oct

Mob movies have the difficult job of presenting some reprehensible characters to us, and then they have to make us like them. That’s what makes gangster classics like Scarface and the first two Godfather films so good. Coincidentally, both of these films star Al Pacino, and so does Donnie Brasco, a mob film that’s based on a true story that has potential to be a classic, but is unfortunately a film I would characterize as a B-gangster film.

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Special Agent Joe Pistone, aka Donnie Brasco (Johnny Depp), is an FBI agent working undercover to infiltrate the Bonanno crime family. His in with the family comes in the form of a low level lieutenant, “Lefty” Ruggiero (Al Pacino), who is getting upset that he’s been with the family for thirty years and was involved in 26 hits, but still hasn’t gotten anywhere. Donnie is quickly introduced to Sonny “Black” (Michael Madsen), the head of the group. Donnie soon becomes well liked by the family, and he begins to lose sight of what his life really is, as he falls deeper and deeper into the character of Brasco, and distances himself from his family.

I honestly can’t say too much about Donnie Brasco because I really just found it to be a completely mediocre movie. Critics have praised this movie for it’s realism and performances, but it really doesn’t achieve anything new that hasn’t been done in better gangster films. What I will actually remember most from this movie, and what is really annoying, is the tough talk. It almost lampoons gangster talk. If I had to hear “forget about it” one more time, I would take the DVD out of the player and use it to cut my own head off.

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The few things that stick out as positive are Pacino’s performance and the period design. Al Pacino is no newcomer when it comes to gangster films, and his performance as a softer , tired kind of gangster is a welcome change after his malicious Michael Corleone and Tony Montana. It’s a very heartfelt performance that really saves the movie from being completely unmemorable. The period design is also really nice. Taking place in 1978 to around 1980, this movie really does a great job of setting the New York and Miami scenes up to make them look as authentic as possible, from the cars to the music to the clothes.

There just isn’t anything in this movie that will put it in the upper echelons of gangster films. Goodfellas and Casino have great characters with excellent dialogue and artistic shot designs. Scarface exists as almost pure entertainment featuring a comic book style gangster story that is just so much fun to watch. Donnie Brasco falls in the area between Carlito’s Way and Kill the Irishman, although if someone asked me to choose from these three, I’d choose Kill the Irishman.

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Thank goodness for Pacino. If it wasn’t for him, this film would be nothing. It may look nice and have all the elements of a solid gangster movie, but everything just falls flat. Johnny Depp and Michael Madsen do nothing special and the story is not the least bit exciting, which is weird considering all the material the film makers had to work with. From my research, the adaptation of the true story isn’t even that accurate. Well if Donnie Brasco isn’t accurate or entertaining, why would you want to watch it?