The Hateful Eight is, as emphasized from the outset of the picture, Quentin Tarantino's eighth motion picture (at least when one puts Kill Bill together into one larger film). This billing only helps to elevate the disappointment as the movie labors across its enormous, overwrought 3-hour runtime, as Tarantino seems to be more focused on doing his best impression of himself rather than honing his craft as a filmmaker.

Set in the aftermath of the American Civil War, the film brings a promising cast of characters together beneath the roof of a Wyoming-based way station, humorously named Minnie's Haberdashery. A few of the characters do manage to separate themselves from the fray, including Major Marquis Warren, a former Union officer played by a deliciously understated Samuel L. Jackson, and Sheriff Chris Mannix, a Confederate sympathizer and sly yokel portrayed with deft skill by Walton Goggins despite Tarantino's best attempts to fill his mouth with ridiculous little catchphrases ("Well, I'll be double-dog damned!" is repeated a few too many times for my liking).

On the other hand, many of the film's more touted roles, including Kurt Russell as the bounty hunter John Ruth, Tim Roth as the English hangman Oswaldo Mobray and Michael Madsen as the mysterious cowboy Joe Gage, all serve merely to disappoint. Nearly all the characters in The Hateful Eight, but these three characters in particular, are given ample room for substantial complexity or development, which Tarantino shirks in favor of trying to bust out his proven tricks from previous films without adding anything substantial to the formula.

Like Inglorious Basterds, this movie utilizes chapter headings, anachronistic swerves into blaxploitation and the tension of being stuck in one location, much like the marvelously tense barroom scene from Basterds. Mobray's whole make-up of the quirky foreigner is so reminiscent of the turns by Christopher Waltz in Tarantino's last two movies that one wonders if the role was originally written with him in mind. Rather than serving a point, much of the film's gratuitous violence, most of which is levied against Jennifer Jason Leigh's one-note Daisy Domergue, is served for laughs.

Perhaps the fact that The Hateful Eight was so heavily marketed for its 70mm release, the widest such release since 1992, is a good indicator that the film's primary strengths are in its cinematography. While still nowhere near as beautiful as, say, The Revenant, The Hateful Eight does manage to make Minnie's Haberdashery come to live while also focusing in on various character's eyes to capture certain reactions with striking power.

Yet, one cannot help but leave the theater feeling anything but disappointed. After all, with his 1992 debut Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino proved that he could develop characters and a tense plot largely within one set in just over an hour-and-a-half. The violence served a purpose, the characters had genuine life beneath them and a hair-trigger plot emerged that can still bring thrills to those that have already seen the movie dozens of times. Yet, 23 years later, Tarantino has become so self-indulgent and so unedited that his ability to tell a unique story has been supplanted by a desire to craft a "Tarantino event."

The Hateful Eight suffers enormously as a result. For Tarantino to rediscover his stride, it might be time to trim some fat from his films and get back to the basics that made him such a beloved filmmaker.