Review: DJANGO UNCHAINED

By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Inspired by Blaxploitation and Spaghetti Westerns, writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s latest film plays out not only like homage to its inspirations, but has the filmmaker’s undeniable signature style.  Tarantino has a way with words and this talent has always elevated his movies higher than the violent, pulpy, campy and sometimes trashy films that influence him.  DJANGO UNCHAINED is no exception.  Sure, the film has it’s slightly over-the-top moments, a hammy mustache twisting villain, and some vulgarities, but he also has some intelligent, sharply written dialogue, and  some fun satire on racism, ignorance and race relations.  Besides, it would not be a true Blaxploitation/Spaghetti Western mash-up if Tarantino hadn’t included those more lurid and prurient aspects.

In the Deep South, a German bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), while on a job, frees a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) and recruits him to assist with his work.  In exchange for this, Schultz agrees to help Django free his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from the wicked and perverse plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man who fights male slaves for sport and prostitutes the women slaves.

While Tarantino writes a pretty simple story and plot, he really builds on it adding hilarious humor, brutal action and violence, and brilliant dialogue.  The problem, though, is that he tries to make his movie an epic one that it doesn’t need to be.  The film plays out at 165 minutes, and while most of it is awesome and badass, when the audience gets to the stretched out sequence involving Calvin Candy, one can’t help, but really think that this long winded act of the movie could have been trimmed some.  Tarantino does have an incredible actor in DiCaprio who really does shine in this atypical role for him; however, I feel that he gets a little too indulgent with DiCaprio’s talent and over uses it here.

Honestly, audiences cannot complain whatsoever that they want more of DiCaprio in this movie, because he gets plenty of screen time. I relished his wicked performance with glee.  I would love to seem him play more villains, because he certainly can pull it off beautifully.  Christoph Waltz once again delivers an excellent performance as Dr. Schultz.  He has a wonderful cadence in the way he speaks his lines and has outstanding comic timing.  I think I could watch the actor appear in every single movie I see from now on and never get tired of him.  At the very least, I hope he continues to appear in Tarantino’s movies on a regular basis.

Speaking of regulars, Samuel L. Jackson offers his best performance in a Tarantino movie since his turn as Jules Winfield in Pulp Fiction.  Actually, his role here as Stephen, Calvin Candie’s personal assistant slave and man in charge of all the slaves on the plantation, may surpass his first appearance in a Tarantino picture.  He truly is amazing in this role and deserves recognition for it.  Jamie Foxx absolutely owns his role as Django, playing him as an almost broken man in the beginning, but certainly rising to the occasion as Schultz helps him recover and trains him as a bounty hunter. Finally, I must acknowledge some–as there are probably way too many to mention here– of the awesome cameos in the movie.  Look for some sweet appearances by Dennis Christopher (Leonide Moguy), Don Johnson (Big Daddy), Franco Nero (Bar Patron), and Michael Parks (Mining employee).  It really is cool to see these familiar faces in the film.

I must strongly recommend that fans and admirers of Quentin Tarantino, and the films that inspire him, should rush out to see this movie when it opens on Christmas Day.  Those easily offended by strong language, intense violence, and racial epithets should probably stay away.  The movie earns it R-rating and thankfully does.  No one wants to see a watered down and weak Blaxpoitation/Spaghetti Western, especially one with QT’s name on the bill.  If that ever happens, then his fans, including myself, will be calling for his retirement.

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