Thursday, December 27, 2012

Movie Review: "Django Unchained"

While there are a number of things you'll nearly always find in a Quentin Tarantino movie—characters who epitomize both evil and cool (sometimes simultaneously), lots of can't-watch-but-can't-look-away violence, an homage to different film genres, a cameo from the director, and Samuel L. Jackson in one form or another—his films are never dull, nor are they retreads of previous films. Although it drags on a little bit too long, Django Unchained is a tremendously worthy entry in the Tarantino pantheon.

It's 1858, somewhere in Texas. A group of slaves is being marched over rough terrain, through difficult weather conditions, when they are met by dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz, in full Waltz-ian mode). He is looking for a dastardly trio known as the Brittle Brothers. The only person who knows who they are is one of the slaves, Django (Jamie Foxx), so Dr. Schultz decides he'll help himself to Django, whether his owners like it or not. (They don't.) After Dr. Schultz and Django make their escape, he enlists Django to help him track down the Brittle Brothers; if he does, he'll pay him and give him his freedom.

The exploits of this unlikely yet bad-ass duo take them to the plantation of Big Daddy (Don Johnson, looking a little like Colonel Sanders), after which they have an encounter with an early, much less menacing version of the Klan. And as they travel through the winter hunting down criminals, the pair unites to rescue Django's wife, Broomhilda (Scandal's Kerry Washington, luminous as ever) from the plantation she was sold to.

They track Broomhilda to the plantation of Francophile Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who doesn't speak French but likes to be referred to as Monsieur Candie. Django and Dr. Schultz hatch an elaborate plan, but run afoul of longtime family slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson, looking like a cross between Uncle Remus and Uncle Ben), who is a lot more perceptive than he pretends to be. And of course, plans go rather awry.

Combining an homage to the old spaghetti westerns with the blaxploitation theme Tarantino loves to revisit, Django Unchained is amazingly violent (more so than Inglourious Basterds but less so than Kill Bill), hysterically funny, surprisingly astute, and unbelievably foul-mouthed. (I don't know if I've ever heard the "N" word used so many times in one movie.) While the movie runs a little more than two and a half hours, trimming at least 20-25 minutes from the end would have made it even more effective, although the conclusion was worthwhile.

I've never been a huge Jamie Foxx fan, more for his off-screen posturing than his acting, but he does a terrific job as Django, bringing cool and heart to his character. Waltz is once again absolutely fantastic; his character gets some amazing dialogue and his delivery is spot-on. Leonardo DiCaprio is at his most odious yet his most playful; he apparently was so appalled by his character he had to play him, and he is fantastic. Samuel L. Jackson does his best Samuel L. Jackson, and once again, Tarantino brings back some 1970s and 1980s favorites throughout the film—Johnson, Tom Wopat, Lee Horsley (Matt Houston), even Dennis Christopher (Breaking Away), who plays Candie's lawyer, Mr. Moguy. And of course, Tarantino has a small part toward the end.

I am constantly amazed by Tarantino's creativity, his ear for dialogue, and his thirst for bloody violence. Clearly some have been offended by this movie, and if you don't take it in the spirit with which it was intended, it's certainly understandable. But for me, Django Unchained is another great movie to stand as a part of a growing list of Tarantino's great movies.

No comments:

Post a Comment