Quentin Tarantino may be insane, but his lunacy is undeniably entertaining.
And as a pleasant surprise, his latest, Django Unchained, is one of his most focused efforts.
Tarantino’s salute to the Spaghetti Western is hilarious and wonderfully violent. The film’s blood squib budget had to be through the roof…
Django rides high thanks to Tarantino’s excellent dialog and a handful of fantastic performances. The best among them is Christoph Waltz
as bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz.
Waltz is brilliant, delivering the comedy with perfect timing while still presenting this ruthless killer with likeability and sophistication.
Schultz despises slavery and frees Django in order to claim a bounty. In exchange, Schultz promises to help Django find his wife, who was
sold away as punishment by his former owner.
Jamie Foxx plays Django as the straight man; strong and silent and nicely complimenting Waltz’s performance.
The two are wonderful together and the first act flies by with a great balance of humor and direction. It superbly establishes the characters
and sets up the narrative.
Django’s only real misstep comes in the middle section of the film with the introduction of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie, a slave-
owner who is now in possession of Django’s wife, Broomhilda (The lovely Kerry Washington). DiCaprio is clearly having a lot of fun with his
performance, but the second act settles a bit and his character doesn’t end up being nearly as fun as it could have been.
While Django always remains entertaining, there is a stretch that doesn’t quite have the humor or pacing of the majority of the film. Seeing
as the film’s running time ends up being an excessive two hours and forty-five minutes, a bit of editing should have been in order.
Luckily the film fires back up, especially with the presence of Samuel L. Jackson’s Stephen, who is in charge of all the slaves at Candie’s
estate, Candie Land (Yes, that’s actually the name).
Jackson is hilarious here and always seems to do his best work with Tarantino.
There is a great scene where Schultz and Candie are negotiating over dinner while Stephen begins to pick up on Django’s feelings for
Broomhilda. It’s funny and tense, striking the same brilliance of early standout scenes where Schultz frees Django and also when the two
have a standoff in a bar with a group of lawmen.
The final act quickly escalates into a delightful barrage of bloody violence and brutal action sequences. This is a revenge film after all and
the climax is appropriately satisfying.
Although Django Unchained is about a man on a personal quest, it’s an obvious metaphor; condemning purveyors of slavery and
discrimination to horrible fates in a way that might resemble the exploitation films of old.
No matter how you classify Django Unchained, this is a sharply-written, energetically-directed and brilliantly-acted film. Only a slight lull
around the halfway point and its slightly bloated running time hold it back from receiving a full four stars.
* * * ½
(out of four)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo
DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson
Cinematography by: Robert Richardson
Released: December 25, 2012; 165 Minutes