Wednesday, December 26

REVIEW: Django Unchained

Directed by Quentin Tarantino
2012 Western Action Drama
2 hours 45 minutes
From The Weinstein Company
and Columbia Pictures

Jamie Foxx
Christoph Waltz
Leonardo DiCaprio
Kerry Washington
Samuel L. Jackson
Walton Goggins
Dennis Christopher
Don Johnson

If you're out to shake off the Christmas season, as I always am, I can't think of a better way to achieve that than a Quentin Tarantino movie... any Tarantino movie will do.  But as luck would have it, there's a new one out to help you unchain yourself from the burden of Christian charity and goodness and kindness and return oh so quickly to your usual snarky, bad-tempered, stressed-out, 4-letter-worded ways.  It's called Django Unchained.

Tarantino captured my attention from his earliest entry into the movie business and make no mistake, he is one of the biggies.  Not that I like all of his movies because I don't.  Slap me silly but I was not nuts over the Kill Bill movies.  Tarantino can be a study in excess and that's likely why I didn't care for Kill Bill so much.  So, why then, did I like Pulp Fiction, which I very much did?  Well, the man has learned how to work me as a patron of his work.  I adored Inglourious Basterds for many reasons, not the least of which is introducing me to the wondrous acting of Christoph Waltz.

For Tarantino violence is like comfort food.  He is a master at displaying it; it is grisly, head-rolling, organ-flying, blood-letting and for certain gratuitous.  If he is disliked for his films, this would be the chief reason why.  Violence has never bothered me providing I can have a nice hot bath afterwards and dry off during a Julie Andrews movie. 

His films use four-letter words as commonly as peachers say God and the racial epithets are likely to turn off quite a few folks as well.  The N-word is said so often in this film that one is nearly numbed to it by the finale.  I never care to hear it whether echoed by a white or black but will agree that it was most appropriate for the times depicted in this Civil War-era film.  And my displeasure of hearing it never keeps me away from a QT film.

Like his compatriot, Steven Spielberg, QT is a lifelong movie fan and it shows.  Watching his films, the inveterate moviegoer can tell this is a man who loves movies.  He is quite the stylized director and borrows from and blends several types of film influences such as noir, French New Wave, spaghetti westerns, kung fu and grindhouse.  He is daring and audacious and different, traits I greatly admire in all creative people.

I guess it's fine to call this a western.  It does have horses and guns and dumbass people and it does begin in Texas.  It moves to Mizzippi so I think we could also call it a southern and we know I love my southern movies, modern-day or yesteryear.  Bring on the Civil War, anything about slavery and you got my attention.  I always was a sucker for the good overpowering the bad particularly after the good does a lot of suffering as I munch on my Canola oiled popcorn.

A bounty hunter frees a slave so that the latter can help him identify some murderous brothers.  The slave mentions that his wife has been stolen some time back and is now the captive of a plantation owner.  The two men agree that they help one another out.  The brothers are dispatched rather easily but the wife is another matter entirely.  The fun is watching it all play out... Tarantino style.

We won't divulge the ending exactly, although if there's a sequel, most of the actors won't be back.  I had heard that this was a particularly blood-letting experience but all through the film I was saying huh, where's the blood.  Oh you wait.  The last 20 minutes or so is not for the faint of heart.

Other than the director, the best thing about this film is Christoph Waltz who, as usual, is simply astonishing, delivering one of his highyly-detailed, richly nuanced performances.  It was delightful seeing Leonardo DiCaprio in an unsympathetic role as the plantation owner and he pulled it off with his usual aplomb.  Kudos as well to Samuel L. Jackson as the house... um, servant.  As the majordomo of the household, he realized all too well his elevated status and used it in every way he could.  There was no bad acting to be seen but these three actors were heads above the rest.

It remains to be seen whether Django Unchained will go down as one of Tarantino's major films.  While I very much liked it (and we know how I love westerns), the general theme of the film has been done so many times that I suspect this one will simply fall in with the rest.

Coming in January

1 comment:

  1. Oooh, I'm looking forward to this one. Such a PERFECT genre for Tarantino. The previews look great!

    Little side note that my college ex, Michael Bacall, has become a bit chummy with Tarantino since they worked together on Grindhouse (Death Proof). He had a tiny part in Inglorious Bastards and his IMDB lists him in this one too, although it's uncredited. Funny how the world turns. Michael was always a HUGE Tarantino fan since Reservoir Dogs (he had a giant poster on his wall in college), and now he's working with him. Too fun!