Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Western, Action, Drama
Run Time: 2 hours 45 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Cristoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins
Written & Directed by Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and 2)
Those who go into Django Unchained expecting another recognizable Quentin Tarantino gem will likely be pleased. The auteur’s latest film – as one would expect - once again blends an array of genres into a wildly funny and violent piece of entertainment. It’s not for the weak of heart or the easily offended. But it is thoroughly Quentin Tarantino.
With Django (pronounced “Jango”) Unchained, Tarantino takes his first crack at a western. Set way back in the Civil War era, a bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) enlists the help of a slave, Django (Jamie Foxx), to help him track a band of ruthless brothers. In exchange, Dr. King promises to lead Django to “Candie-Land,” a Southern plantation where Django’s wife (Kerry Washington) is being held. The plantation is ran by the brutal Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) who doesn’t intend to just let these men waltz right in and take his “property.”
What we get then, is your basic revenge flick. It’s hard not to rave about Tarantino, who has proven at this point in his career just how unique of a talent he is, both as a screenwriter and as a director. Nobody populates their films with as many interesting, memorable characters. His dialogue is consistently distinct, funny, rhythmic and biting. And as a director, is there another in Hollywood with more of a gushing love of cinema than Quentin Tarantino? His movies are joyous and energetic, violent and disturbing at times, yes, but always fun.
Take for example, the funniest scene of 2012, in which a band of hooded Klan members ramble on about how the holes in the sheets covering their heads are too small to see through. It goes on for a few minutes and embodies the essence of Tarantino: Hilarious dialogue and sharp commentary mixed with disturbing imagery. Who else but Tarantino can make you laugh when people explode or get shot? We know we aren’t supposed to, but he challenges us by presenting controversy head-on. Nobody has the audacity even, to try to find humor in watching a mob prepare for battle. Who knew lynching was ripe for satire?
Django Unchained probably (OK, undoubtedly) contains more uses of the n-word than any film in history. Again, this is a film to avoid if you are easily offended. But once again, Tarantino deserves credit for tackling such topics and exposing the hypocrisies that exist in today’s society. As we shake our head at what we see on screen, we ask ourselves the famous line spoken by Russell Crowe to the Coliseum crowd in Gladiator: Are you not entertained?
But when given complete free reign, as many in his position are, Tarantino shows a tendency to fall in love with his own stuff to a damaging degree. Django Unchained is an exercise in excess. At nearly three hours, it establishes no flow, grinding nearly to a halt once our protagonists reach their destination. Here’s a guy who cut Kill Bill into two films because he didn’t want to dwindle it down to one. There is no reason Django Unchained needed to be more than two hours.
Somewhere in there was a great film. Django Unchained, as it stands, is not a great film. But Tarantino fans can rest assured that their favorite filmmaker is still operating at the top of his game.
There are great performances – namely from Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio – for sure, but the main draw is the puppeteer behind the curtain, the man pulling the strings, putting words into his subject’s mouths and making his puppets dance.
Yes Quentin Tarantino, “The Wizard of Id,” gives us a lot to like and delivers once again with his specific visual and verbal style, but his latest film does show a downside to freedom, creatively speaking. In exposing the ugly under-belly of slavery in the South, we also see how a director – unchained and uninhibited – can shackle his own visio
Looking for a specific movie or review?