Django Unchained: Rated “R“ (120 Minutes)
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
It is hard to know where to begin with a review of Quentin Tarantino’s gleefully brutal, splatter-punk revisionist, blood-n-gore-soaked, pre-antebellum fantasy revenge flick. As with 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, he has delivered to us a well-spun yarn — albeit with an entirely implausible though thoroughly entertaining ending. To be sure there is violence a-plenty as well as buckets of blood and brains painting the walls as gun violence abounds throughout this gloriously un-repentantly and often sadistically brutal and entirely scatological flick (we couldn’t help but to notice that the White members of the cast seem to enjoy way too much uttering the otherwise-impossible-for-White-folk-to-say-“N”-word).
Django Unchained is (mostly) set in the South just two short years prior to the Civil War, Django (Foxx) is a slave being transported through Texas when he comes into the company of a German-born bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Waltz). As it so happens, Dr. Schultz is on the trail of a trio of murderous brothers. Schultz has somehow come to understand that Django is someone who can identify the Brittle Brother and thus help Schultz collect his bounty. Securing Django’s help with a promise to free him upon the capture of the Brittles the Good Dr. and his newfound partner set out to track down the notorious Brittle Brothers. However, once they manage to serve those warrants with a particularly definitive finality, Schultz extends his offer of help to the newly-freed Slave and offers to not only train him in Bounty Hunting (and killing), but further promises Django to help him find and recover his wife (who was also sold to a new master).
The unorthodox Schultz then utilizes Django to help him seek out the South’s most wanted criminals, essentially honing Django’s vital hunting skills. Eventually their search leads them to the plantation of one Calvin Candie (DiCaprio — playing a thoroughly delightfully evil and totally malicious villain, much against type), who is the proprietor of “Candyland,” an infamous plantation where slaves are groomed to battle each other for the pleasure and sport of their uncaring masters. Gaining access to the plantation’s compound by pretending to be in the market to enter the Fighting Mandingo trade, the pair scope out the place in order to locate, Broomhilda Django’s wife. Unfortunately, they wind up arousing the suspicion of Stephen (Jackson), Candie’s trusted house slave (& “Uncle Tom”). Once they are found out, and a Candie’s men begin closing in on them, Django and Schultz must attempt to try and escape with Broomhilda. In doing so, they must also choose between their own independence as well as solidarity with each other.
Mixed in with all of the blood, violence, and ethnic slurs is a story of companionship, redemption, and love. As well as one that brutally depicts a very despicable portion of this country’s often brutal and hidden history that we so clearly don’t want to discuss in polite company. Sure, sure we (now) talk a bit about that there were slaves and the Civil War, but oh so often while glossing over the incredible harm that we did to the soul of this country and from which we are still recovering.
Is there a message mixed in with all of the glorious reverence to violence? Perhaps, is it even the one that Tarantino wants us to see? Who knows, but in amongst all of the gun play, end entrails-and brains-drenched sets, there is a fair amount of entertainment value in watching this terrific cast of actors strut their stuff with wild abandoned granted to them by an individual auteur who this writer has often described as “the most talented hack in Hollywood.” Yes, for whatever else Tarantino is, he does this stuff well and entertainingly so at that. No, Django Unchained is certainly not for everyone, but those of you who will appreciate its “B”, grindhouse, splatter-punk origins, and simply take it for what it is. Yet another wild ride courtesy of Mr. Tarantino, complete with an outstanding score, and most-excellent acting.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web.