Quentin Tarantino is back in full form with his send up to the classic genre of the western. While not unfamiliar with its style, this is the first time in QTs career that he’s tackled it straight up, and he certainly proves to have an exceptional grasp of it. The film, both brutal and brilliant, does not shy away from the uneasy setting of the American south of the past. Even the most liberal viewers will find themselves cringing at both the violence and brutal racism depicted. This isn’t a John Wayne starring studio produced western, but more an exploitation extravaganza using the western genre as its backdrop.
Set in the Deep South, DJANGO UNCHAINED follows the recently freed slave, Django “Freeman” (the D is silent, as Django is quick to point out), and his mentor in the art of bounty hunting, Dr. King Shultz, played by Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz respectively. Both are aptly cast in their rolls, though Waltz channels a bit more Hans Landa, his character from QT’s INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, than I cared for.
Feeling a sense of fatherly requirement to his partner, Shultz promises to aid in the search of Django’s sold off wife, played by Kerry Washington. This journey leads them to “Candie Land”, a plantation run by a wealthy slaver by the name of “Monsieur” Calvin Candie. Exceptionally played by Leonardo DiCaprio, Candie is in the business of selling off slaves for fighting, a business the bounty hunters plan to use to their advantage to win their ultimate prize. When things go sour and the proceedings erupt into a WILD BUNCH style shootout that will leave you both giddy and shocked, the film takes on a new level. This is where QT’s flair for violence is most aptly displayed.
The dialogue is sharp, as is the action and it’s the delivery of both that makes the film so much fun to watch. The actors are clearly enjoying the exploitation driven world QT has created. Sam Jackson in particular takes on his roll with perfection.
I had very few reservations about the film, finding its only real fault in the running time; good 15 to 20 minutes too long, as most of Tarantino’s flicks are. He has a knack for over embellishment that is both wonderful and draining at times. Some viewers will undoubtedly be up in arms when it comes to the racism of the film. While I found much of it to be period accurate, and fitting in its exploitation roots, I did find myself laughing at moments that I probably shouldn’t have found funny.
I would put DJANGO UNCHIANED in the same standing as BASTERDS, an exploitation feast for the eyes that will shock and entertain audiences. QT proves once again, he knows how to write, how to shoot, and how to make one hell of an entertaining flick.
Django Unchained opens in theatres everywhere on Dec. 25th.
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