Thursday, December 27, 2012

Django Unchained Review

You've got to expect certain things from a Quentin Tarantino movie. Looking for subtlety in one of his films is like asking a member of the Tea Party to say something good about President Barack Obama. It ain't going to happen. So what can one expect from writer-director Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained? If you saw Inglorious Basterds (2009), don't expect a history lesson. Tarantino's take on slavery is mishmash of spaghetti western (See the original Django (1966), Franco Nero has a humorous cameo.) and sixties blaxploitation flick. Expect Tarantino's wonderful dialogue and oh, yeah there's a "little" of that Tarantino violence.

In Django Unchained, King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a bounty hunter frees slave, Django (Jamie Foxx), to help him locate a group of fugitives. In exchange, Schultz will give Django his freedom and help him find his slave wife, Broomhilda. (Kerry Washington) Later the two partner up and hunt fugitives together. After a winter of bounty hunts, they find Broomhilda but she is owned by a cruel master, Calvin Candie. (Leonardo DiCaprio) Their problem is how to get Candie to sell Broomhilda to Schultz and allowing him to give her to Django.

There's a certain magic to the way Tarantino writes dialogue in Django Unchained. You can't describe it, otherwise every screenwriter would have it. It's simply captures your attention. Perhaps it's the way every line has a purpose, whether it is to advance the plot or define a character. And he does this in every one of his films. His direction of the movie is also magnetic. Instead of using hand-held cameras or overusing camera gymnastics, Tarantino merely relies on the drama in the scenes to capture your attention. You can't help but be invested in this movie.

Django Unchained is also helped wonderfully by the performances of the cast. Jamie Foxx is smoldering cool as the former slave, Django seeking to free his wife and enact vengeance on whites. Kerry Washington doesn't have a lot to do but she does carry the part of damsel in distress well. It's her physical and inner beauty that makes us feel we need to save her. Leonardo DiCaprio gives his despicable character a sort of practicality. To him, slavery is just a way of life. Samuel L. Jackson plays Stephen, an old slave to Candie. He's unrecognizable and very much different than any role he has ever played. And yes, he drop the "F" bomb at the appropriate time. What did I say about this film not being historically accurate? It's good to see Christoph Waltz break free of the bad guys he's played to be a noble, slightly unhinged and at times comic bounty hunter.

But for all the good things that Tarantino does, his love for over the top action nearly derails Django Unchained. Don't get me wrong people act illogically. It's just there's a scene towards the end of the film where one of the main characters goes berserk and starts a chain of the wildest gunfights in a western. I just thought why would this character do something that makes no sense. Yes, Tarantino prepares you for the climatic gunfight with violence of slavery and other shootings. But Tarantino wallows in the ugliness of torture and violence. I stopped caring about the characters at the end of the movie but merely was flabbergasted by the copious amount of blood spilled. As for the use of the "n" word for African Americans, all I can say that's what they used back in the nineteenth century. I saw the movie with blacks in the audience and they enjoyed it, so obviously they weren't put off by it. But this black man seeking justice by killing white people isn't going to help in solving our racial problems. I don't think Martin Luther King would give Django Unchained a positive review.

Django Unchained is a well made spaghetti western and blaxploitation movie. It certainly tries to say things about race and man's inhumanity to man. But it's Tarantino's love for violence that keeps the film from being anything more than B movie fare. The grade is, of course, a B.

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