Quentin Tarantino’s newest western film Django Unchained, or as the director refers to it ‘a southern’, has some referring to it as another masterpiece on his resume. It’s garnered a lot of attention, a bunch of award nominations and a decent sized box office take.
I’m not sure I would call it a masterpiece, but it is awfully entertaining.
Going into a Tarantino film by now you should know what to expect to get. Some style, witty dialogue, good performances, tributes of films past and sudden shocks of violence that punctuate scenes. And that’s all here.
Jamie Foxx stars as Django a slave in Texas who is bought by Christoph Waltz’s Dr. King Schultz, a former dentist now bounty hunter. Django can identify some prospective bounties, so being such a good-natured affable fellow Schultz offers Django a deal – help him find these guys and he’ll give him his freedom.
Soon this partnership turns into a friendship and after having a successful run of knocking off bad guys and collecting the cash, they set about tracking down Django’s enslaved wife and freeing her. They’re led to the notorious Candie Land, owned and operated by the evil Calvin Candie (Leonard DiCaprio). As our two heroes formulate a plan to free Django’s missus, they’re faced with dangerous adversaries who will play hardball to protect their interests.
The film plays out like another comeuppance revenge tale. Similar to Inglorious Bastardswhere WWII-era Jews were allowed to get payback against their Nazi persecutors, here it’s the black slaves who get a taste of justice. Tarantino really makes you hate the villains. They’re heartless, brutal and the whole time I was itching for our bounty hunters to give them what they deserve.
The cast are all excellent. I’ve never been a big fan of Foxx, but here he makes it easy for you to root for him. He’s a sympathetic character and you can understand the anger he has inside him that’s he’s very willing to unleash.
DiCaprio delivers another great performance as the sadistic Candie. I think it’s the first time he’s played a bad guy in a film and he delivers the goods on all levels.
Samuel L. Jackson I thought was fine as Candie’s elderly house slave, although it was hard for me to accept that he was this crochety old man. I just kept hearing that Jackson voice and all the violent, showy roles he’s done in the past coming out of this guy. He’s got such a strong onscreen personality he’ll always be ‘Sam Jackson’ to me no matter how much old age makeup they put on him and it’s tough to think of him as any other way.
All the supporting actors are very well cast in their parts. It’s funny how Tarantino can sprinkle in actors who most filmmakers seem to ignore and they end up having indelible little scenes.
I do however think Tarantino showing up in a small part was very distracting. Plus, he wasn’t very good and it might be better if he just stayed behind the camera. Maybe he should have cast Paul Hogan as that Aussie character. I think he was supposed to be Australian.
The real star, the one actor who really made me love this movie and I couldn’t take my eyes off him the moment he nonchalantly moseyed on screen was Christoph Waltz. He was such an interesting, relaxed, articulate character I couldn’t get enough of him.
Naturally he’s good with his gun, but he’s also awesome with his words. The calm way he talks while whether pouring a beer or being surrounded by an entire agitated town, won me over.
The violence is extremely brutal. The dialogue scenes range from touching to suspenseful. There’s a self-referential sense of humor the film has. Tarantino’s affection for old spaghetti westerns is clearly on display from everything to the soundtrack to the images unfolding onscreen. The film does feel a bit too long, but overall it ends up being a real fun Tarantino ride.
The film does not feel a bit long. It is overlong. Django Unchained should have had at least fifty odd minutes chopped off. The film has many great exploitation characteristics and, like always, Tarantino has to try and complicate things by drawing them out and milking them. The film is paying homage to the exploitation end of the Spaghetti Western genre (mainly the dirty gritty films of Sergio Corbucci) and some of those films weren't interested in rousing speeches and dinner table conversation like this film does.
The problem I've always had with Tarantino post Jackie Brown is that his films lose sight of their goals and try and become something more longer and deeper, and that in turn ruins the very core base of the exploitation films he has claimed to love. No wonder why he hates Drive, that film very successfully infused an art house sensibility into a B-movie premise. It had a discipline in its pacing and editing, and actually demonstrated that less is more.
As always the supporting cast is there to save the day. Waltz (who, along with Michael Fassbender, in my opinion saved Inglourious Basterds from becoming another self indulgent exercise like Death Proof) is fantastic, Di Caprio is wonderful, Jackson is hilarious, and Franco Nero (the original Django) is sadly reduced to a cameo. The film is certainly his best since Jackie Brown, but having said that I miss the Tarantino of old where he actually tried to breakaway from the homage genre. Now he's like an old and bloated Elvis impersonator at a wedding.
Sounds like Tarentino has the same talent that made Mr. Brown such a memorable character so many years ago.
I don't know.
Is it really a Tarentino film if he doesn't spice it with a badly acted cameo?