After the feast has been eaten and the presents opened, for those who venture to the theater Christmas evening, there is a good selection of newly released films to choose from. The family friendly Bette Midler/Billy Crystal starrer Parental Guidance is one, while Les Miserables will surely claim the musical fan. Then there’s the release of writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.
If there is one thing Quentin Tarantino excels at when he makes a film is over-styled action sequences that can really defy logic. In his latest film, Django Unchained, Tarantino goes back in time to the pre-antebellum south where ruthless plantation owners rule over their property with an iron fist. Jamie Foxx stars as the titular character, Django, a southern slave on the run after a brutal encounter with his former owners. A German bounty hunter, named Dr. King Schultz (Cristoph Waltz), is sent after him only to strike a deal with Django that offers him freedom. Django has something Schultz wants, the path to the murderous Brittle Brothers whom Schultz is eagerly pursuing. The pair forms an unlikely alliance when the Brittle Brothers are brought to justice and Django is freed as promised. Working together the pair hunt down the South’s most wanted criminals.
Django has one goal on his mind; to find and rescue his wife Broomhilda (Kelly Washington), whom he lost to the slave trade years ago. Django and Schultz eventually track her down to the infamous Candyland plantation, owned by the sadistic Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Under false pretenses, the pair explores the compound only to arouse the suspicions of Candie’s trusted house slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), who will make it difficult for Django and Schultz to escape with Broomhilda.
With a new cast and a few returning regulars, such as Jackson, Tarantino has assembled an impressive cast to bring his take on the spaghetti western to life. While the cast is new, the formula Tarantino follows of shoot ‘em up in odd manners seems to be present as early reviews suggest; Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman mentions “the gaudy-bloody last 30 minutes (think over-the-top and beyond).” Django Unchained is not a family-friendly film, to which Tarantino probably knows nothing about.
However gruesome its depiction of violence may be, early reviews by critics from such publications as The Hollywood Reporter, are favorable, in particular to Jackson’s performance. Reporter’s Todd McCarthy writes: “Stephen, his old house slave, whose combination of obsequiousness and diabolical shrewdness makes him a vivid character. Jackson’s appearance at first provokes a double take- he’s somewhat stopped, filled out in the jowl and bald save for tufts of white hair on top and in the sides- but when the Tarantino regular is onscreen, it’s impossible to take your eyes off of him.”
Devotees of Tarantino’s signature soundtrack styling should also be fulfilled as McCarthy also writes “as always the Tarantino, the soundtrack is a wildly eclectic thing. Spaghetti Western scoring master Ennio Morricone is represented by eight tracks, some recycled and one original song, while there’s also anachronistic contemporary sounds…” Western genre fans should recognize Morricone’s name from the iconic The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly soundtrack.
In all other facets, Tarantino’s latest should deliver the thrills and the shocks one would expect from one of his films. Django Unchained has already garnered 5 Golden Globe Nominations, as well as recognition from the Screen Actors Guild. Django Unchained opens in theaters on Christmas Day.