Review: Django Unchained


Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast:Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington

Running Time:165 Minutes


Stop me if you've heard this one before: the new film from Quentin
Tarantino is stylish, hilarious, violent and has a great soundtrack. It's also
about 20 minutes too long. All those things are true of Django Unchained, but if you're a fan of Tarantino's vision at all,
you're going to have a rockin' good time at the movies this Christmas.

Set, as the titles tell us, two years before the Civil War, dentist
King Schultz (Christoph Waltz, using his magnificent charm for good this time)
frees Django (Jamie Foxx) from two slave runners on the condition that he helps
kill the Brittle Brothers, wanted men on whom Schultz hopes to collect a
bounty. Schultz also promises that after the brothers are killed he'll help
Django rescue his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from a plantation.

Django Unchained is
Tarantino's most straightforward story but by no means his leanest. It's packed
with all manner of excess stuff that hampers all his movies. Don't get me wrong"”I
think Tarantino has never made a bad or even just a pretty good film. But Django is typical of Tarantino. Any
chance for excess is relished in: more blood, more costumes, more montages. It
also suffers from occasional tonal inconsistencies. Some scenes it's Blazing Saddles, others it's a bloodier Unforgiven. Still, this movie is gutsy
and entertaining, except for the moments when you have to cover your eyes.
Brutality is never shied away from here, so your mileage may vary. One thing
everyone can agree on, though, is the quartet of fantastic performances from
the men of the movie. (Sadly, Kerry Washington's Broomhilda is not in the mold
of Jackie Brown, The Bride, or even Bridget von Hammersmark.)

Jamie Foxx, freed from prestige pictures like Ray and The Soloist, gets
to use all of his trademark swagger in a role that takes him from timid slave
to stylish hitman to vengeful husband. Christoph Waltz, preferring his wit over
his weapon, again plays a character who acts like the smartest guy in the room
until he isn't. Leonardo DiCaprio is simply terrifying as Calvin Candie, who
owns Broomhilda and keeps her on a plantation he calls Candyland, where the
slaves fight to the death and the women are used and abused. Samuel L. Jackson
plays the head slave at Candyland, who served Calvin's father and his father
before him. It's great to see Jackson in a role he can actually sink his teeth
into. This is the best acting he's done in a decade.

Django Unchained, like the
spaghetti westerns Tarantino idolizes, is a bloated revenge fantasy, made much
more enjoyable by its great humor, music"”by everyone from Ennio Morricone to
Rick Ross"”and performances. For those can appreciate and handle Tarantino,
there's no better choice this holiday season.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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