Three years ago, Quentin Tarantino decided to rewrite the history books and put his own pulpy spin on WWII Nazis with the fantastically absurd Inglorious Basterds.
Now Tarantino has taken his shocking, entertaining style and placed a bullseye on the issue of slavery just before the Civil War. His take on history was a success for Basterds, but for Django Unchained it’s an absolute triumph!
Before I finish my review of Django, lets break free from some trailers!
TRAILERS ATTACHED TO DJANGO UNCHAINED:
Haunted House – The trailer shows us that this film will be a spoof of all those Paranormal Activity movies. But it is scary to know the Wayans family still has enough power to get films made. : Sell My Stock!
Movie 43 – One of the oddest trailers ever! Not sure how you can fit actors like Richard Gere, Halle Berry, Emma Stone, Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts and many others, into a this raunchy comedy. But I’m willing to find out. : I Will Be There Opening Night!
A Good Day To Die Hard – The first Die Hard is perhaps the best action movie ever made. Die Hard 2 is one of the best action sequels ever made. What made them great was an in his prime Bruce Willis as a one man army. Now 20+ years later and with help from his son (ok?), this 5th Die Hard just doesn’t have the same “yippee-ki-yay” feel to it. : Sell My Stock!
Gangster Squad – The trailer makes it look like a B-movie, despite the A-list actors in it. This could be The Untouchables for the 21st century. : I Will Be There Opening Night!
Oblivion – Still not sure what the exact plot is in this sci-fi epic. Seems like there is a twist in there somewhere. Tom Cruise has had success before with this genre. : I Will Be There Opening Night!
The Lone Ranger – While Armie Hammer appears to be a perfect choice for the title character, it’s his sidekick Tonto (Johnny Depp) who will certainly steal the show. Should be a huge hit next Summer. : I Will Be There Opening Night!
Dark Skies – As much as I’d like to make fun of this movie…the trailer was damn scary. Not sure it will be a good flick, but the trailer is one of the best ones I’ve seen from the horror genre. : Sell My Stock!
Zero Dark Thirty – In my opinion, this could become the “Traffic” of Middle Eastern terrorist films. : I Will Be There Opening Night!
NOW ON TO THE MAIN EVENT…
When you go see a Quentin Tarantino film you can expect carnage and witty dialogue. With his latest, Django Unchained, we get both and then some.
The film begins two years before the Civil War, when Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a former dentist turned bounty hunter, frees a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) from servitude in order to gain his assistance in tracking down three wanted men. The same three rotten men who mistreated Django and his wife while they “worked” for them. Once Django helps Schultz kill those men, the kind-hearted Schultz decides to pair up to rescue Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from the clutches of a villainous Mississippi plantation owner named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his “house slave” Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson).
If a movie about slavery can be humorous, Django finds a way. One scene involving the KKK looks as if it could have been pulled right from Blazing Saddles. Even though it has a few funny moments, this film is far from being a barrel of laughs. Tarantino doesn’t shy away from the harsh language and sickening violence that plagued that era. From the 100+ uses of the “n-word”, to brutal depictions of violence towards slaves (a Mandingo fight and vicious dogs tearing a runaway slave apart being two scenes you might want to look away from), Django Unchained never hides the fact that it’s trying to show you the horrors of slavery.
As you would expect, the acting is superb. Foxx makes for a perfect Django (couldn’t see first choice Will Smith as our hero). Thanks to the caring German doctor, Django goes from an illiterate slave to a proud and strong free man. Leonardo DiCaprio had the guts to take the role of Candie and just run with it. It’s a role that looks like it would have been better suited for someone like Johnny Depp, yet Leo owns it. You can see his hatred boil up to a slow slimmer, but when it reaches its boiling point…watch out! Sam Jackson also plays his part well as the worst “Uncle Tom” ever! He is probably more hateful than Candie’s character. Kerry Washington isn’t given much dialogue, but she suffers so much throughout the film that we don’t need words to see her pain. Despite all these terrific turns, no one handles their role better than Christoph Waltz as the dentist/bounty hunter. Either Tarantino gave Waltz the best lines or he is just that damn good at delivering them. After seeing him play the evil Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds, it was a revelation to see him play such a good man like Schultz.
In usual Tarantino style, the director digs up some great character actors for small parts. Walton Goggins and Don Johnson (looking like Col. Sanders) get the best of these small roles, but that doesn’t stop others from providing some inspired cameos. Jonah Hill pops in for the KKK “skit”, but it’s the list of veteran “whatever-happened-to-them?” actors that will have you wanting to see the movie twice so you can catch them all. Don Stroud, Tom Wopat, Lee Horsley, James Remar, Franco Nero, Bruce Dern, Michael Parks and Russ (plus daughter Amber) Tamblyn all make appearances.
The film does drag a bit towards the end and the shootouts look as if people are throwing Kool-Aid at one another, but those are minor flaws when you compare it to the riveting story Tarantino has cooked up. The music also adds flavor to this film. A western meets slavery tale that has a soundtrack with everything from folk singer Jim Croce to rapper Rick Ross is pure Tarantino.
Django Unchained might feel like a visual and verbal slap in the face at times, but it is as raw and authentic as any film I have seen in 2012 and one of the best.
I give DJANGO UNCHAINED **** out of ****.