"Kill white folks and they pay you for it? What's not to like?" Killing is definitely the name of the game in Django Unchained (2012), starring Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx (Ray) and directed by Academy Award winner Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction). The film came in second at the box office last weekend with $30.7 million and narrowly missing out on the top spot due to The Hobbit's continued success.
Django (Foxx) is a slave who is freed by a former dentist name Dr. King Schultz (Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz of Inglorious Basterds). Schultz offers to help Django find his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington of Ray), who has been sold to a plantation called "Candyland" run by a young man named Calvin Candie (Academy Award nominee Leonardo DiCaprio of Inception). In order to incorporate Schultz's help, however, Django must first assist him in capturing three brothers that were overseers on Django's former plantation. Needless to say, Django not only earns his freedom by agreeing to the terms, he gains gunman skills (and is soon considered the "fastest gun in the West") and earns money to make a life for his wife after he rescues her.
A Tarantino movie isn't a Tarantino movie without a few elements. First and foremost, there has to be a lot of blood. Though the slicing and dicing isn't as elaborate as the "Crazy 88s" scene in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), the manner in which some people are murdered will make you cringe in your seats. In addition to the massive amount of violence, you'll have strategically (and sometimes awkwardly) placed comedic moments. Django definitely capitalizes on some moments that will cause you to laugh out loud (usually through Foxx's dialogue with Waltz) and some that make you shift in your seat a bit (let's face it, it's set in the South when slavery was prominent).
Another element of this film (and most of Tarantino's films) is the underlying story within the violence and hilarity. Ultimately, this story is about a slave who just wants to rescue his wife (Foxx) and the man who abhors slavery and will do anything in his power to make it happen (Waltz). There are moments when Schultz shows is apparent disdain of slavery. The way that human beings treated others made him extremely uncomfortable. The friendship he created with Django is pure, believable, and honest. Waltz's acting was absolutely phenomenal. It was also a breath of fresh air to see him as something other than the villain. Jamie Foxx proved back in 2004 that he has what it takes to be a major Oscar contender, and he proves it yet again with his performance as Django.
The supporting actors pulled an immense amount of weight as well. Leonardo DiCaprio, one of Hollywood's favorite heroes, strutted his stuff as a sadistic slave owner. His performance actually reminded me a lot of Christoph Waltz's Oscar-winning performance in Inglorious Basterds. He definitely is something to watch. Academy Award nominee Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) also appears as Stephen, one of Candie's slaves who can obviously say and do just about anything he wants. Not only does he drive a good bit of the comedic relief in the second half of the film, his character maintains an ominous presence throughout the film...and proves his ability to evoke evil on his own kind in the name of his master.
This is a well-rounded film that spans 2 hours and 45 minutes of screen time. Though a bit heavy in length, Django Unchained provides nonstop action, humor and a wholesome story that is sure to garner a bit of attention this coming awards season. Show times can be found here.
Little Rock Movie Examiner's rating: 5 out of 5 stars
MPAA rating: R
Minimum Age Group: 17+
Sexuality: There is a bit of nudity, talks of "comfort slaves" (slaves used for sex), women in scantily clad clothing
Language: Very strong language throughout. A fair amount of "f-bombs"; the "n-word" is also used vigorously as it was commonplace during slavery
Violence: Explicit violence. Most scenes have some element of violence; there is an abundance of bloodshed; many characters are killed; most of the comedic elements even have a dark and violent undertone
Drugs/Alcohol: Pipe smoking, social drinking
Themes/Issues: Slavery, prostitution