‘Django Unchained’ stars Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx as Dr. King Shultz and Django, respectively. Just your average pair of pre-Civil War bounty hunters, right? Wrong, because this is Quentin Tarantino doing with ‘Django Unchained’ much as he did with ‘Inglourious Basterds’. That is, director Tarantino has taken a relatively obscure foreign exploitation film and re-envisioned it as only Tarantino can.
First, I’d like to see how ‘Django’ stacks up with what we, as an audience have come to expect from Mr. Tarantino.
- Offbeat and interesting casting choices? Check.
- Terrific and memorable use of soundtrack and/or music? Check.
- Story told in anachronic or ‘non-linear’ order? Check.
- Hyper violent? Check.
- Colorful and energetic use of profanity (preferably by Samuel L. Jackson)? Check.
Okay, so ‘Django’ seems to fit into the mold of Tarantino’s films so far.
Wait, I forgot one more item from my checklist for Tarantino’s most recent films…
- Wildly self-indulgent at the expense of the audience? Check.
While ‘Django Unchained’ is undoubtedly entertaining, beautifully photographed, in possession of some wonderful acting and dialog, and features all of the best ‘Tarantino-isms’ that the director is known for; it is also simply an overproduced exploitation film.
‘Django Unchained’ is a western-set revenge tale that is a little bit “The Outlaw Josie Wales’ with a mix of ‘The Defiant Ones’ plus ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.’ From a storytelling standpoint, it isn’t anything that hasn’t been seen before.
The performances, however, have come to be (along with some terrific dialog throughout his films) what Quentin Tarantino might be best known for. Christoph Waltz is charming and lends a lightheartedness and intellect to ‘Django’ as bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz. Some of his scenes with Jamie Foxx’s Django are alone worth seeing the film for. Equally memorable is Leonardo Di Caprio as plantation owner Calvin Candie. Di Caprio plays Candie with an oily ease in a performance which could easily have been overplayed by a less talented actor.
To his credit, Di Caprio imbued Calvin Candie with both sinister intentions and a naiveté about his outside world that ultimately render his and Waltz’s performances as the film finest. Don Johnson as ‘Big Daddy’ and Samuel L. Jackson both flex some acting muscle as well garnering some of the films bigger laughs.
‘Django Unchained’ no doubt will offend some moviegoers. With its pervasive profanity, including many racial epithets, over-the-top stylized violence, and subject matter this is not a family friendly film. It’s a ‘hard R’ rating in my opinion. It is also an exciting, well acted, and stylish revenge western.
If you are already a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s work I highly recommend ‘Django.’ If you’re curious because so many critics have lauded heaps of praise on this film; go with caution.