Friday, January 4, 2013

Movie Review: Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino's latest film Django Unchained is wildly entertaining. It's long and over indulgent, ridiculously violent, at times hilarious but most of all, it's sheer fun. I really liked this movie but couldn't help buy feel slightly disappointed overall. Like Wes Anderson, Tarantino's film's have a certain formula to them and his penchant for extreme style over substance is starting to really irk me.

Jamie Foxx plays Django, a slave turned bounty hunter who, along with his European partner Dr. King Schultz (played by the amazing Christoph Waltz), travel the antebellum South, killing bad dudes and searching for Django's long lost wife hoping to buy her freedom. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a vile plantation owner and Samuel L. Jackson his ruthless slave/house servant.

Inglorious Django
The entire cast is amazing. The four main stars, along with Kerry Washington as Django's wife and even Don Johnson, who I haven't liked in anything since the G.I. Joe: The Movie, everyone delivers great performances. Foxx is technically the star of the film but he is simply out matched whenever Waltz, DiCaprio or Jackson are on screen. In fact, during the dinner scene at Dicaprio's plantation (aka Candyland) when all four are sitting at the table, it's like a massive tug of war for the audience's attention with such great actors each commanding the screen at the same time.

The thing I love most about Django Unchained, is how the film bends over backwards to remind the viewer just how horrible, how ridiculous and how real slavery was in American history. People are beaten, whipped, stripped nude, tortured and attacked by dogs. It's all cringe worthy violence but helps propel the film's narrative: the American South was a fucked place before the Civil War.

Tarantino uses Waltz and DiCaprio's characters like yin and yang symbols. Both are smooth talking, educated white men whose lives are directly intertwined with blacks. Waltz, the white man who liberated Django and stands on the right side of history, is a European immigrant who looks at the backwards ignorance of DiCaprio and his Southern culture (who so desperately try to mimic European aristocratic life on their plantations) with disgust. There is no single villain in Django Unchained, it's all of Southern Culture and the poisonous idea of slavery that's at target.  

So while I really enjoyed this film, I do have my complaints. First, its too long. Yes everything looked cool on screen but Christ man, the film is damn near 3 hours! I personally think 30 minutes could have been trimmed without hurting the film's overall narrative and hell it would have even helped the film's pacing. Next, I get it Quentin, your a great director. Please, please stop writing your name in CAPITAL LETTERS across everything you do. It stopped being cute in Kill Bill. Django's crazy outfit, the odd choice of modern rap music thrown into a film set in the mid 19th century...I mean c'mon. It's just too much sometimes. I know who's directing this you don't have to keep reminding us.  Oh look, Tarantino has a cameo during the films 3rd false ending and it's easily the worst thing about the entire movie. Great. I love being immersed in films but Tarantino's blatant Tarantino-isms do nothing but yank me right out.

Django is still a great movie that I highly recommend. I'm just sad that I only liked it and didn't fall in love.


  1. Eric asked me if I would go see this movie with him. Not being one for movies, in general, I said maybe. After learning that his coworker saw it and said it was riddled with nasty violence, I changed my answer to "No." Apparently, it makes the violence in Breaking Bad look like child's play. I can't handle ugly stuff like that. Sick.

    But after reading your review, my interest has perked. Maybe I'll just cover my eyes during the gross parts...? What's your take on the violence factor?

    Also- did you say it has alternate endings? Like the movie Clue??

  2. Honestly to me the cast sounds so good plus with a directing legend, in fact one of the best directors of all time behind the camera and the film I can't help but feel like it's going to be absolutely out of this world and I can't wait to check it out. I've heard about it and thought it sounded good man but after reading this review I'm swayed despite it failing to deliver in a few aspects.

  3. Samuel L Jackson is continuing his streak of being in everything it seems. Although actually it does sound like a pretty decent movie.

  4. Tarantino has never topped Reservoir Dogs in my book.

  5. I've really been wanting to see this movie and reading your review hasn't been helping. I think I might do that this coming week sometime.

    That aside, great piece!

  6. Yeah.. Tarantino could tone it down a little. I think he's just doing whatever he likes, kinda like he used to. He's just a bit more self indulgent now, maybe?

  7. I saw this the day after Christmas and I find myself agreeing with most of your points. It really became tedious during the last 30 minutes. Overall, I really loved it. Christopher Waltz is the best actor on the planet, in my humble opinion. May I follow your wonderful blog??

  8. Great write up of one of my favorite films of the year.

    The American South was a fucked up place after the civil war as well. Hell it's still not that great now. I loved the in your face look at slavery. Especially considering states are engaging in revisionist history in an attempt to gloss over the horrors of slavery.