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Django Unchained

The 2012 film by Quentin Tarantino

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A Mash of German Legend, Spaghetti Westerns, Modern Music, Samurai Flicks on a Historical Backdrop.

  • Dec 27, 2012
When I saw Quentin Tarantino’s cameo appearance in Takashi Miike’s “Sukiyaki Western Django” (please see the original uncut of Miike’s movie before you judge it), I had a small hunch that the acclaimed director was about to go into something with the ‘western’ flavor (or so he states ‘southern’), and guess what, I wasn‘t far from wrong. Tarantino’s movies often become something to be anticipated, probably because of the fact that the filmmaker only makes movies every 2-3 years and when he does, his films are often easy to like. Ok perhaps not “Death Proof”, but most of his films are, even the much debated “Inglorious Basterds” had something to said for showmanship despite some minor rough areas in its screenplay. His movies often rely on some personal flair and his characters drive the story, and such is the case once again with Tarantino‘s latest “Django Unchained”.

                              Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx in "Django Unchained."

Two years before the civil war, we find a German dentist-turned-bounty hunter with the name of Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) rescuing a slave named Django (Jaime Foxx) from slave traders. Schultz needs Django to help him with the bounty, and this is to hunt down and kill the Brittle brothers. In return, Schultz will liberate Django from slavery after working through the winter as his associate in bounty hunting. Schultz trains Django and he turns out to be a natural. Then somehow, Schultz also decides to aid Django in finding his lost wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who has been sold to a plantation owner and a promoter of Mandingo fights, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). But sometimes, things do not go as planned.

                            Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Django Unchained."

                           Leonardo DiCaprio in "Django Unchained."

Everyone knows that I like Tarantino’s movies, but I am not going to say that his movies are perfect. “Django Unchained” is Tarantino’s continued goal to take on different genres, that he had stated that he prefers this film to called a “southern” rather than a “western”, as his story is back dropped in the South where the slave trade ran rampant before the years of the civil war. As with most Tarantino movies, he keeps his screenplay simple, but certainly filled with his own personal flair. The screenplay feels episodic and yet it ran linear when compared to his other movies. Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” does not trim down on any scenes that can be argued to be unnecessary (ok, maybe a predictable cameo was too much 'fat'). It is a film almost 2 and a half hours long, but it remained focused and consistent with what it was trying to do. True, it can be said that it lost gas by the 122 minute mark, but overall, Tarantino had me for the entirety of his latest film.

There is a bountiful of characters in “Unchained” and Tarantino’s writing seemed to have returned to its top form. It seemed as if he had toned down his pop culture zeal the more he goes further into the period pieces away from the modern era. His writing had become smoother, and he seemingly avoids references that needed to be dissected. Sure, there are still a few, but the plot wasn’t driven by them, and the minor reference to the German tale of Brunhilde and Siegfried only serves as a classical basis (in this case “Candieland”) that needs to be overcome by Django. The blood splattering effects are no doubt his usual tribute to the arterial spray in samurai films (see the cotton plant splattered with blood) and the tempo of the movie certainly channeled the “Spaghetti westerns” of the past. Yeah, there are still the usual shout-outs and it is fun to recognize what he is referencing. Tarantino’s movies seem to have an issue on impulse control that he often appears to almost lose control as a writer, and yet, he doesn't. I really have no idea how the man can pull off a reference-rich screenplay that can be solid, immersive and entertaining (other directors have failed with such things).

                            Christoph Waltz in "Django Unchained."

                           Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz in "Django Unchained."

The flow of the dialogue can definitely grab its viewers, as morbid humor and wit are often around the development of the screenplay. The dialogue was sharp, clever and had its own form of wit. It can go from funny, to intense while even adding some clever references every now and then “first he should find a fighter that wins, then turn him to a spectacle.“. There is an interesting aura of showmanship the way Tarantino writes his script. Here, Tarantino also has a copious amount of characters that lend support to our leads. There is Don Johnson, Jonah Hill, Samuel L. Jackson, Zoe Bell, Robert Carradine and Michael Parks, there is a lot of them and they all serve to add personality to the screenplay. Tarantino makes his narrative to go really wide, driven by his careful hand in developing his story while covering as much characters that could be inter-connected. This is the reward of our traveling protagonists, the viewer gets to see almost as much as they do.

It is also to the writer-director’s credit that he manages to choose the right performers for his films. Foxx and Waltz felt like they were natural. The two formed a chemistry based on the other feeling a little uneasy, and then they became more comfortable and reliant with one another. Of course, much of the film’s wit and charisma was carried by Waltz, and the film does have amazing bad guys in the persona of Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson became a necessary device to drive its climax. The characters in the film were what really drove the film, for no matter the cleverness, and charm of any script, they need to be delivered convincingly, and the performances were stellar.

                              Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz in "Django Unchained."

The film is also marvelously shot and many sequences have the flavor of Leone’s spaghetti westerns and Japanese Jidai Geki films (Tarantino has proclaimed himself a fan of those genres). The more the film gets going, the more it seemed to get more violent when it came to the gun fights. Here, human beings were there to supply a good body count, as bullets and flesh spray red goo everywhere much like those Japanese samurai flicks. Tarantino also toys with some ideas that reference the exploitation era, but nothing so obvious. Some viewers may become a little sensitive to some racially based humor since the film has a lot of them, but the delivery weren’t offensive and were meant to justify the payback that came to such behavior.

Tarantino is a showman. He is the kind of director who seeks to entertain first and foremost, that he uses a style all his own. No, it isn't perfect, it did have some areas that can use improvement, but for a movie with a 141 minute runtime, it certainly moved smoother and quicker that I wanted to see more. The film even has an exchange between Di Caprio and Waltz that probably closely describes Tarantino as a filmmaker. Tarantino finds a winner, in this case a winning concept, and then makes sure that it is something that his fans can get behind on. Then, he creates everything (including a gimmick) around that winning concept, rather than defining a concept with a gimmick . With "Django Unchained"  the concept is the friendship between an ex-slave called Django and a former dentist turned bounty hunter called Schultz. It works. Tarantino has brought us the 'Fastest Gun in the South".

Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "Django Unchained." Teaser poster art for "Django Unchained."
A Mash of German Legend, Spaghetti Westerns, Modern Music, Samurai Flicks and Historical References.

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January 02, 2013
I just saw it and have a lot of the same observations and also gave it 4 stars. Tarrentino did inject a lot of comedy into it though and I felt he paid the most homage to Blazing Saddles. I didn't realize that Franco Nero also played in a movie called Django and that is why he had a cameo in the film.
January 03, 2013
I wanted to share those bits in my review but I wanted them to be a surprise. I will be right by your review in a minute.
January 01, 2013
Hmm. Haven't seen this yet. Figure I will, but I may wait for the DVD. For me, Quentin is kinda touch'n'go. I like most of his stuff, though he's got a couple of flicks I just don't care for.
January 03, 2013
agreed. Tarantino is good, but sometimes he gets a little too over himself that he forgets to tidy up and he gets a little too talkie in his script.
January 01, 2013
Great review!
January 05, 2013
thank you again, sir
January 05, 2013
You are very welcome.
December 27, 2012
I loved this movie as I am sure you knew I would, and since you mentioned it I have to say I also Loved "Death Proof".
December 27, 2012
I liked "Death Proof" to a point, and while I only saw the DVD cut, I thought it needed more consistency and focus in its screenplay. Tarantino is a great filmmaker, but he does get a little overzealous with all the references.
December 28, 2012
Man I loved it at the theaters and on DVD, something about strong females in films gets me going.
December 28, 2012
I have to say Zoe Bell is pretty awesome. "Death Proof" was the only recent Tarantino movie I did not see in theaters
January 09, 2013
You missed out man, I think the greatest time I ever had at the movies was watching "Grindhouse" or "Red State" with Kevin Smith doing his Q&A afterwards.
More Django Unchained reviews
review by . January 03, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
I am not a Tarentino "fan", having only seen his last two movies, and both are five star classics.  Before I saw these movies, my take on Tarentino based on skimming critical reviews was that Tarentino films glorified violence and were cartoonish B-grade movies.      Neither description applies to Inglorious Basterds and Django.  What we're talking about here isn't history, its morality.  In Basterds, Tarentino ripped any semblance of respect …
review by . January 02, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
A German Bounty Hunter/Dentist played by Christopher Waltz (who we last saw in Inglorious Basterds) tries to buy Django (Jamie Foxx) from a slaver. The reason? Django can identify three brothers who Waltz is hunting for a bounty. Waltz lets Django know that if he goes with him and points out his bounty, he will free Django and pay him for his trouble.      Django agrees to Waltz's offer and Waltz can only get him from the slavers in dramatic fashion (reminicent of Gene Wilder …
review by . January 05, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
Django broke free of those chains, if only Tarantino could get back on his though.
For almost 10 years now, Tarantino has regaled us with his takes on his favorite genre of movies, the grindhouse karate and massacre exploitation variety.  This was fun for a while and while Tarantino is a skilled director and writer, this is really starting to get old hat since we have seen this before.  I'm about to take a line from Roger Ebert as tacky as that may be: "Now that we know what kind of movie Tarantino can make, it's time for him to make a better one."   …
review by . December 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Review: 'Quentin Tarantino creates an over the top funny, graphically violent, masterpiece (video)
'Django Unchained' Movie Review   By Joan Alperin Schwartz      Quentin Tarantino has done it again with this spaghetti style western.  'Django Unchained' is set in the South, two years before the Civil War.                                            &nb …
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Movies, Western, Quentin Tarantino, Leonard Dicaprio, Kerry Washington, Christopher Waltz


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