Thursday, April 25, 2013

Now at Netflix Instant: Django Unchained (2012)

Django Unchained (2012) - Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino; Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins.

By Kenny Howell

I honestly kind of stayed away from this for awhile, partially because my wife didn't want to see it, and I don't get to go to the theater as often as I would like, but also because of the running time. At almost three hours, Django aims to be a spaghetti western epic, much like the ones Tarantino adores.

Looking back at those Sergio Leone (Once Upon a Time in the West) movies, you can see why Tarantino likes them so much. They are incredibly cinematic. They want to fill every corner of the screen to the brim, wanting every second to be an experience. Shots are not wasted, sounds are at their loudest, jolts are at their most excited. It pulls you in with energy and style.

That is the look Tarantino has adopted. Not so much his early films, but other like Inglorious Basterds, the Kill Bill movies and Django want to take it to the hilt.

Basterds kind of came off the rails a bit toward the end, but Django seems much tighter for the most part. Again, like Basterds, it does go a little haywire at the end, and falls off into live cartoon territory. Which is fine, but much of the movie doesn't follow that path.

Django is a slave that is "bought" and freed by a German dentist (Waltz) who moonlights as a bounty hunter. He has three guys he wants dead, and Django can identify them. He finds out that Django's wife has been sold to another plantation, one called Candie Land, owned by the ruthless Francophile who doesn't speak French, Calvin Candie (DiCaprio). That starts the very bloody battle to get his wife back.

Everyone goes for it in the cast, particularly Waltz (who won his 2nd Oscar) and DiCaprio (The Revenant). Much like DiCaprio's other work he disappears into Candie, and I don't think he really got the credit he deserved. He is really good.

There are also some very good comedic moments in the movie, like when a mob led by Don Johnson (Cold in July) and Jonah Hill (22 Jump Street) go to get Django and the Dentist, but the eye holes in their white hoods were cut to small. That leads to a big argument over whether they should have the hoods, and what the whole point is. It's a really solid piece of comedy writing.

My main problem, besides the ineffective last scene or two, were the music choices. There is no real connection to the music, and some of the songs stick out like a sore thumb, especially the hip hop songs. The movie starts with a spaghetti western, B-movie type score, but modern day music creeps in at times. It was out of place enough to distract me and take me out of the movie.

Django Unchained isn't Tarantino's best work, but at times it is a lot of fun if just for the joy each actor seems to have got out of working with the modern master.

Rating: ***1/2

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