Words by John Hewitt
Tarantino is not a director unaccustomed to racially driven stories, having tackled blaxploitation in Jackie Brown and Jews in Nazi Germany in Inglourious Basterds. Like the latter, Django Unchained sees the genre iconography pulled apart and glued back together as a postmodern Franken-western (a view shamelessly stolen from someone much more clever than I. No guilt). Some have expressed surprise that it’s been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, but its certainly his most entertaining film since Pulp Fiction.
The film begins with Django (Jamie Foxx) as a slave being taken to be sold, only to be liberated from his owners by dentist bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). King makes Django an offer: if Django identifies the illusive outlaws, the Brittle Brothers, for King to take out, King will help Django liberate his wife Broomhilde (Kerry Washington) from Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the charming but brutal plantation owner. And so begins Django’s training to become a bounty hunter, cutting a swathe of dead outlaws across America.
Django Unchained follows the Tarantino style of brilliant characters, brutal violence and bursts of humour. While Django himself is pretty one-dimensional, Waltz, DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson are able to get their acting chops around truly delicious roles. Jackson in particular manages to play a wonderfully memorable role as the doddery yet malevolent head slave. At the same time, the film manages to be ethically serious with the history of slavery, never feeling like its being used for cheap laughs, while maintaining a sense of entertaining playfulness. They aren’t the main concerns of the film, but they aren’t overlooked either.
In spite of these benefits, the last act of the film (after Tarantino has made his cameo) is noticeably rushed to attach a happy ending that isn’t really necessary, as it could have done just as well with an ambiguous end that doesn’t feel as thin. In addition, the musical can sometimes be intrusive, failing to make a harmonious mix of Ennio Morricone Western music, rap, hip-hop and folk. This also may not be the film for those of a squeamish disposition, either towards violence or swearing, but you probably already guessed that.
Django Unchained is a highly enjoyable, bold and bloody romp. While it might too much for some, the rewards make it well worth seeing. Be sure to hunt it out.
|Starring:||Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L Jackson|
|Running Time:||Fuck long|