Movies: Django Unchained

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Written By: Quentin Tarantino
Columbia, 2012
R; 165 min
4 stars (out of 5)


Tarantino follows Inglourius Basterds with a film of equal entertainment value. In fact, the tone of Django Unchained is almost exactly the same as that of Basterds, with Oscar-winning Waltz playing a very similar capricious role, though in Django he sides with the sympathetic rather than villainous.

I could tell stories of Tarantino, who I met however briefly during my tenure as a film student in Austin.  And I could talk about DiCaprio, who I've never met and yet my friends laughingly call him my "[twin] brother" because a street artist in Rome once drew me and the end result was something that looked remarkably like a female version of dear Leo (please note that he is actually a little older than I am; not sure what that says about how I look and/or the talent of the Italian street artist).

But really, all that need be said is that I enter every Tarantino movie with a sense of apprehension because his films always come with forewarning of how bloody and violent they are. I can't really do gore, don't watch horror films, but I've found that, on the whole, Tarantino's brand of violence doesn't much deter me. It is so over-the-top, and things move so fast, the blood never has time to bother me. Also, the story being told is usually so entertaining that I'm willing to brave the inevitable splatter. (Except Kill Bill bored me, so I wandered off in the middle of that one.)

In any case, I found Django Unchained highly engaging, if a tad too long. The last 20–30 minutes weren't entirely necessary, and I had to wonder at the need to show ZoĆ« Bell but not really use her for anything. But on the flip side, always glad to see a Carradine. Also, Don Johnson and Bruce Dern. (Truthfully that bit with Johnson as Big Daddy and Jonah Hill and the other Bag Heads—that was pretty damn funny, simply for the fact that it was so underplayed while the rest of the movie, in true Tarantino style, was exaggerated and overstimulating.)

Tarantino is not subtle. Not with his violence, nor with his schtick. Waltz's character is Dr. King Schultz, and the "Dr. King" part is what sticks out, for this is a man who treats Django as an equal. He is a personification of civility and civil rights. Kerry Washington plays Broomhilda von Schaft, and once Schultz takes the time to explain the myth of Broomhilda's rescue by Siegfried from a mountain protected by a fire-breathing dragon . . . Well, you see where the story is going.

But as they say, half the fun (if not more) is in how you get there, and in Django Unchained we do have an interesting journey and a satisfying, if predictable, finish.

No comments: