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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Django Unchained Movie Review

Director Quentin Tarantino has never been subtle with his use of violence ("Kill Bill", "Pulp Fiction"), and he is one of the few modern directors who has managed to make it palatable; his films are savage but also potent satire and intelligent pulp schlock. Tarantino took the "revenge exploitation" genre to the next level with "Inglourious Basterds", pitting a squad of psychotic American Jewish soldiers led by Brad Pitt against the Nazi war machine in WW2 France. Basterds was like watching ones' ultimate wet dream (if one happened to be raised by Holocaust survivors) unfold in grainy HD and a sickening display of blood and splattered brains. With his latest exploitation film, "Django Unchained", Tarantino has turned to the history of slavery as his backdrop and while it is no less savage than its predecessor, it falls too many times off its horse to be exceptional; even though there are some sequences that would have made Sam Peckinpah drool like a starving child in a candy store.

Set "somewhere in Texas" less than two years before the start of the Civil War, "Django" only really bites off when Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz) is the center of attention. Waltz (fresh off his Oscar win for "Inglourious Basterds") is once again a mesmerizing fellow to observe onscreen. Tarantino's script is stronger this time around; especially when it is delivered by Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, and a remarkably evil Leonardo DiCaprio.

This southern tale of a German dentist, turned bounty hunter - who requires the help of the titular character to find three slave traders who happen to be hiding out on a plantation owned by Don Johnson and ends up with the evil DiCaprio who also happens to own Django's wife - is a bloodfest from beginning to end. The gun fight sequences are beautifully shot and utterly ridiculous as the carnage becomes obscene enough to make one laugh.

Unfortunately for Tarantino, the release of the film one week after the horrendous real-life carnage in Newtown, Connecticut, has to be on the minds of moviegoers. To suggest that we are not a culture high on violence is hard to take seriously after observing a packed theater laugh and giggle with each death.
Where the film stumbles is, unfortunately, with Jamie Foxx, who never really evolves as Django. He certainly has a few moments on screen where he is charming, brutal, and even funny, but he is as one-dimensional as the idiot southern white men that he cuts down.

Foxx glides through the middle of the film, becoming almost irrelevant as DiCaprio and a snarly Samuel Jackson (channeling his character from "Pulp Fiction") take over the film.

Tarantino seems to have lost his watch while shooting "Django Unchained" as the film drags in the middle, and its 165 minute running time is just painful to sit through. One knows exactly how this exploitative "collard greens" western is going to end and for some that may not be quite satisfying. Unless you happen to find humor in hearing "nigga" every two minutes and don't mind scrapping bloody brains off your popcorn.
"Django Unchained" is ultimately an orgy of blood that drowns under Tarantino's self-indulgence, only surfacing for air long enough to keep the audience mildy entertained.

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