MOVIE REVIEW: Django Unchained
DIRECTOR: Quentin Tarantino
CAST: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kerry Washington
CLASSIFICATION: 16 LVP
RUNNING TIME: 165 Minutes
RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)
Django off the chain!
There is a scene in Tarantino’s trouble-starter where our title character, Django, arrives at a grandiose farmhouse as the assistant of a one-time dentist turned bounty hunter, Dr King Schultz. Here, Big Daddy (Don Johnson), the owner of the crib that is surrounded by lush grounds, tells his slave girl: “You can’t treat (Django) like any of the other n*****s out here ’cause he ain’t like no other n****r.”
Django Unchained ain’t like no other movie. And that, ladies, gentlemen and haters, is the nail we hang our cowboy hat on.
This Western-inspired film follows Dr Schultz (who is played expertly by Waltz) and Django (brought to life by Foxx, pictured), the slave he purchases, frees and then turns into a bounty hunter.
This unlikely friendship sees the twosome head, on horseback, into towns during the Deep South’s antebellum era. There, they kick ass, take names and make moolah while at it. But, to Django, one thing is more important than others: to find, pay a fee for and free his wife, the peculiarly named Broomhilda (Washington).
This is how the pair cross paths with Calvin J Candie, a plantation owner who takes immense pleasure in orchestrating mandingo fighting – where men fight to the death – between his slaves.
Candie is played by showstopper DiCaprio. Everything with Candie is fine and dandy until Schultz and Django meet Stephen (Samuel L Jackson), Candie’s house slave, a surly old man who would be a slaver if he could be. Just think Uncle Ruckus from the Boondocks series.
You’ll have to watch the nearly three-hour-long dramedy-tinged Western to find out exactly how everything goes down.
Obviously, Tarantino and the cast were bound to come under fire for even wanting to create a movie that has, as a colleague put it: “the N-word trending on the lips of white people”.
But what’s happened since the film was released in the US is an inferno that even Satan would burn his fingers in. But that’s not what we’re here to discuss.
The fact is the movie was made and if we didn’t have to take the scenic route to get to the crux of the matter, it would just be a well-executed guts-and-gore film with a soundtrack you’d want to own and some of the funniest screenwriting this side of Judd Apatow.
So let’s start with the negative points: Django meanders through Big Daddy’s farm, through snow capped hills and lots of other places that look great, but add no dimension to the character.
The cinematography includes glossy parts, lights in everything from houses to suits and, of course, cotton fields. Even on mute, some scenes would be a pleasure to just look at. But you know a film is long if titles (in a Lost Saloon font, of course) come up on the big screen to elaborate on the continuation of a story! Kerry Washington is good only when she’s quiet.
And there will be scenes that make you uncomfortable – including all 110 times the N-word is used. Bank on that. But Tarantino’s shock tactics do not leave a bad taste in your mouth.
The cast is stellar. DiCaprio, Foxx and Jackson in particular.
Aside from cinematography, the good parts include the sheer bad-assness of Django. He’s no black Moses. Instead of a staff for seas or spiritual guidance, Django is driven by a search for his wife, for revenge and for blood.
Lots and lots and lots of blood.
While I don’t agree with making collectible figurines or over-indulging in N-bombs, it’s easy to see how Django can be thought of as a cool character of colour like, say, Afro Sumarai. But we’ll see if the movie goes down as one of Tarantino’s masterpieces.
If you liked… ‘Unforgiven’… then you may like this.