Django Unchained: A Review
Release Date: 12/25/12
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Genre: Western, Thriller
First of all, you might be asking yourself who I am and why you should listen to some random guy's movie review. It's not a bad question, so let me assure you that I am not some casual movie goer who rants about how much he hates a particular actor or articulates (poorly) some other random nonsense. I am a film aficionado; a movie-aholic, a flick geek whose range of favorite films span the genres from classic films to big dumb summer blockbusters. To put it short, I have an open mind and a wide palette for movies. So let's get on with the review, shall we?
I'll start my review with a precaution: This is a Quentin Tarantino film and if you aren't prepared for what that entails, you will be horrified and possibly scarred for life. If you brought your children with you to see the movie, you are a terrible parent and CPS has already been notified of your poor parenting.
I viewed "Django Unchained" on opening night at a packed southern California venue. This allowed me to get the full effect of gauging the film. Audience reaction can be a powerful indicator of quality. For example, there was a preview for "Scary Movie 5" and hardly anyone was heard laughing, indicating that the film won't do very well because it's unfunny garbage.
Would you pay money to see Scary Movie 5?
Get on with the review already!
Okay, okay, fair enough.
From the beginning, you can tell that this is film has Tarantino's trademark style stamped on it as we are introduced to Dr. King Schulz (Christoph Waltz) who is attempting to purchase a slave named Django from a pair of slave traders. Waltz' Dr. King is instantly likeable with his witty charm and looney, yet quite deadly, demeanor. Django is freed and the slave traders are killed with bullets that create cartoonishly over-the-top blood spatters. I never knew humans were so highly pressurized.
Django agrees to help Schulz, a bounty hunter and staunch abolitionist , track down a pair of crooks whose faces no one but Django has seen. In exchange, Schulz will grant him his freedom, give him a percentage of the reward, and help him find his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who was sold to another owner and separated from Django.
Jamie Foxx's Django is played with a slow burn. At first, he is quite shy and humble then, under Schulz' guidance, becomes more open and friendly. Then, as he learns the ropes of bounty hunting and develops his skills, he becomes the hardened vigilante badass we'd expect from a character like Django in a Tarantino Universe. By the film's end, Foxx has turned Django into a no nonsense, shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later type that is not to be trifled with. The transition from timid to badass isn't exactly realistic, but it sure is fun to watch.
Eventually, the two bounty hunters end up at the plantation where Broomhilda resides, a place dubbed Candyland, after it's devious owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Quentin Tarantino himself stated that, of all the bad guys he was created, Candie was the only one he truly hated. That's coming from a guy who created Mr. Blonde in "Reservoir Dogs" and Hans Landa (a freakin' Nazi) in "Inglorious Basterds." DiCaprio stated that the plantation owner is the "most deplorable, indulgent, horrendous character" he's ever read. Calvin Candie will go down as one of the top movie villains of all time, mark my words.
That being said, DiCaprio's Candie is easily the best part of the movie. DiCaprio nails it and absolutely steals the entire movie even though he is only in it for about 45 minutes or so. If he is denied an Academy Award, then I will never lend the Oscars another drop of credibility. To offer a small bit of movie trivia, in an intense dinner scene involving DiCaprio's Candie and all the other main characters of the film, Candie breaks a glass in his hand in anger and a bit later slams his hand on the table. Immediately after, Candie's hand can be seen bleeding and he ends up smearing it on Broomhilda's face as she is being pinned to her chair. This part of the scene was improvised by DiCaprio after he accidently slammed his palm on broken glass on the table. He never once broke character and instead incorporated the injury into the scene. When the cameras cut, he went to the hospital and got his hand stitched up. Now that's damn good acting.
Do you think Leonardo DiCaprio deserves a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Django Unchained?
Also of note is Samuel L Jackson's Steven, the head slave of Candyland who is extremely loyal to his owner, like a dog. He is a despicable man in his own right, and is the main reason why Django and Schulz' plan to get Broomhilda out quickly and legally goes awry. Jackson's acting is top notch here, but I just couldn't get into his character. I've never heard of a slave being that loyal to his owner that he would betray his fellow slaves. He had nothing to gain or lose from Django and Schulz' plan to "buy" Broomhilda so it made no sense that he would rat them out. Something just seemed too unrealistic and out-of-place about the character.
Go see Django Unchained, you will easily get your money's worth if you:
A) Like Quentin Tarantino movies
B) Like westerns
C) Hate slavery and think it's awesome when slaves rise up and get revenge on their owners.
Bonus: There is a scene involving a slave owner, played by Don Johnson, rallying the KKK in what is clearly their infancy. The short scene involves the Klan fussing about their hoods and how it's difficult to see out of them. The whole thing plays out like a Monty Python skit.