- Director:Quentin Tarantino
- Cast:Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington, Kerry Washington
- Release Date:January 24, 2013
- Running time:165 minutes
- Film Worth:$18.00
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It edges toward the ludicrous in places, but these moments are forgiven in wake of the big, brave cinematic cracker that Quentin Tarantino has served up.
After blowing up The Third Reich in the deliriously entertaining WW2 belter, Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino continues his roaring rampage of revenge against history’s racist arseholes with Django Unchained, in which he takes personal umbrage with The Deep South’s antebellum slave owners. And while this rollicking western is just as much fun as its war film predecessor, it also amplifies even further that film’s tendencies toward juvenile fantasy and flat-out ludicrousness. With these two films, Tarantino is starting to look more and more like an angry teenager in his bedroom going, “Wouldn’t it be good if…” The fact that his answer to all of the world’s past ills can be found in a pile of high-powered explosives is certainly invigorating and cathartic, but it’s also beginning to feel a bit simplistic. If Tarantino’s next film is about a group of badasses who massacre the men responsible for Apartheid in South Africa, then this ferociously fun filmmaker is definitely in trouble.
Despite its philosophical failings and lack of socio-political complexity, Quentin Tarantino truly hog-ties the western and makes it his own with Django Unchained. This is a big, brave, brawling movie made by a writer/director who truly does things his way. What other western would feature music by James Brown, John Legend and Jim Croce? Set in The Deep South before The Civil War, Django Unchained stars Jamie Foxx as the titular slave, who teams with German bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), to rescue his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), from vicious plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). While the narrative is straightforward, Tarantino shakes things up along the way, with his now trademark array of vivid characters (many played by cult heroes and sorely missed cinematic throwbacks), plot detours, and blow-your-hair-back facility for inventive dialogue and sizzling, slow burning tension. The director’s much-discussed utilisation of extreme violence is also ratcheted up to heaving, fit-to-burst levels, though those pissing and moaning about Django Unchained’s apparently insensitive depiction of America’s slavery era should check out the sordid seventies shockers, Drum and Mandingo, or even the morally abominable Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, if they want to see something truly upsetting.
Along with the rich, full bodied characterisation and whip-crack dialogue, the other shining bullet in Django Unchained’s barrel is the film’s collection of performances. Everyone is effectively theatrical, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, and Samuel L. Jackson playing it appropriately and mesmerisingly big against Jamie Foxx’s more simmering, hard bitten turn. His solemnity and quiet intensity anchor a film that is literally screaming with spot-on, over-the-top acting, while the magnetic Kerry Washington makes Django’s sense of determination palpable and believable.
Quentin Tarantino, however, once again makes the disastrous decision to act in his own film, and actually outdoes himself here with what is undeniably his worst screen performance yet…and one that will certainly resonate with local audiences. QT’s resolute awfulness, however, is balanced by the rogue’s gallery of grindhouse heroes and pop culture icons that he’s rustled up for cameos and supporting roles, with memorable appearances from Don Stroud, Lee Horsley, Russ Tamblyn, Bruce Dern, M.C. Gainey, Michael Parks, Tom Savini, Tom Wopat and many more. Eighties character actors, James Russo and James Remar (who curiously appears in two roles), are even on board as villainous brothers! On top of that, there’s also a bravura comic turn from Don Johnson as a smarmy plantation owner, and a respectful cameo from Franco Nero, the star of the cult sixties spaghetti western that sneakily gave Tarantino his film’s title. Jonah Hill’s seconds of screen time, however, remain singularly confounding, though pretty funny.
While Django Unchained rambles bloodily on for a good twenty minutes after it should logically have ended, and is plagued by an off-putting sense of immaturity and jokiness, this is a film made by a man literally rolling drunk on the possibilities of cinema itself. Quentin Tarantino obviously adores westerns, and Django Unchained feels like a big, bloodstained celluloid love letter to this often unloved and cruelly misunderstood genre. There’s something engaging and strangely warm-hearted about that, and it literally obliterates any of the film’s false notes in a winning hail of perfectly aimed gunfire.