​Reviews: "The Revenant" and "The Hateful Eight"

Now that Christmas is past, let's talk about two of the most hellishly violent films you'll ever see: "The Revenant" and "The Hateful Eight."

"The Revenant" stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a nineteenth-century explorer who's mauled by a bear and drags his torn-up carcass hundreds of miles through barren tundra, both to save himself and get revenge for the murder of someone close.

Director Alejandro Iñárritu is the guy who made "Birdman," and he uses computer trickery to make you think he films action in long, stunningly complex shots -- as if a single edit would give you too much existential relief. Well, that bear-mauling really is something. It goes on, and on. It's visceral with a side of viscera.

A Hollywood blogger caught flack for saying "Revenant" would be too intense for some women. He deserved the flack, but there is a kind of Are you man enough to watch this? quality.

I've heard it praised as Hemingwayesque, which is true in that it makes you want three daiquiris before the end of the first hour. Then it's a couple more hours of Leo grunting, staggering, having mystical visions, and grunting some more -- a lot of pain for small gain.

For more info:

To watch a trailer for "The Revenant" click on the player below.

But Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight" is gorier!

Tarantino has gone to elaborate lengths to make it look like a classic, widescreen Cinerama Western, with an overture by the great composer Ennio Morricone and an intermission, but there's nothing widescreen about his story. It's crabbed, cynical, shot through with cruelty for cruelty's sake.

As usual, Tarantino's foreplay is brilliant. Samuel L. Jackson is a bounty hunter marooned at a stagecoach stop in a blizzard along with Kurt Russell as another bounty hunter, a scarily furtive Mexican, a scarily furtive Englishman, a scarily furtive mama's boy, and others.

The 70mm Ultra Panavision frame of "The Hateful Eight." Weinstein Company

The scariest by far is Jennifer Jason Leigh as a psychotic outlaw prisoner who gets whomped in the face, her nose broken, her jaw dislocated, but who keeps showing off her macabre grin, wearing that battered face like a badge of honor.

Tarantino teases you with the idea that violence can erupt at any second, but when it comes, it's more graphic and nausea-inducing than even a hardened Tarantino viewer will expect.

The unpleasant truth is that Tarantino's considerable wit and craftsmanship -- his artistic soul -- is inextricable from his sadism.

For more info:

To watch a trailer for "The Hateful Eight" click on the player below.

Edelstein endorses:

  • "Brooklyn"
  • "45 Years"
  • "Spotlight"

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