Django Unchained Review

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I’m not at all sure who Quentin Tarantino targets his movies to but, with growing regularity, I’m clearly not one of his targets. His latest effort, Django Unchained, had its release delayed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy. After seeing it, I now understand why. I just wish it had been delayed to make it a better movie.

Django Unchained Movie PosterThe film stars Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz as a freed slave (Django) and the German bounty hunter (Dr. King Schultz) who gives him his freedom in return for help identifying a wanted group of brothers.

The deeper story takes root when Django decides to go after his slave wife and gets help from King.

The movie clocks in at nearly 3 very long hours. This isn’t a new problem for Tarantino films but sometimes his films just feel long. This one is long and feels doubly so.

I get the sense that Tarantino loves the process of making films and he’s clearly a film nut. The problem is that his enthusiasm and depth result in efforts that leave the average viewer lost in the wake.

In this case we have a movie that’s entirely disjointed. It is, at times, a wonder to watch while, at other times, is either entirely un-watchable or simply ridiculous. When it’s good, it’s fantastic. The dialog, visuals and ambiance give us moments of pure cinematic beauty if only fleetingly.

Waltz is, in my view, the star of the show. His work here once again underscores what an amazing talent he wields. We buy everything he’s selling and we long for more.

Foxx is good but he’s overshadowed by Waltz.

We also have a bevy of other key roles played by Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Don Johnson in addition to many minor roles played by some big names. All do a fine job.

Like most Tarantino films this one is violent and graphic. However, this one goes beyond everything he’s done previously. Whoever provided the fake blood must have made a fortune.  Unfortunately, instead of his using it artistically (as he’s done before) here it’s just crazily gratuitous. If it’s supposed to be a joke, the joke wears off almost immediately.

Then there’s other Tarantino-trademark problems. There’s one-off “jokes” that never repeat and, on their own, aren’t interesting. Why, for example, is the text for Mississippi screen-high and scrolled while no other similar description is? What artsy element or inside joke am I missing here?

We get character quirks that go entirely unexplained, like a mystery woman who covers her face with a red bandana (except her eyes) in every scene. Why? We never find out.

There’s characters who look exactly like other characters and, in one case, actor James Remar plays two entirely different, supposedly unrelated roles. However, both clearly look the same and it’s distracting. Why? Again, we never find out.

The soundtrack was noteworthy and, here and there, compliments some wonderful shots but it’s not enough to save the film.

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9 Comments

  1. You really don’t understand? All the points you claim to not understand are very clear in my mind. I suggest to watch the original Italian made “Django” to start. After that search out what films/genres influence Tarantino and the picture will clear up for you.

    • Rich Heimlich on

      I will tell you that some of the top searches for finding my review post included phrasing that suggest many people are also confused about this. Plus, just searching Google shows a large number of posts about the same topic. I would hope that understanding a mainstream movie wouldn’t require people to have to do the type of research you recommend. I didn’t need such endeavors to enjoy Kill Bill: Volume 1, Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction. Why is this different?

  2. I don’t care if you enjoy it or not, get it or not, just trying to point you in the right direction. Regarding the giant scrolling “Mississippi”, for example, satire doesn’t always have to be direct. If you are interested I can suggest some other films but seeing how your concern is mainly mainstream I may be wasting my characters. No insult meant on my part so no need to reply unless you want the other movie titles.

  3. Rich Heimlich on

    JD, my point remains. I said at the very start of the review that, with more regularity, his movies seem to be designed for audiences that no longer include me. The movie was advertised to mainstream audiences so I’m concerned with mainstream audiences. If they only advertised it to priests of the British Virgin Islands then I’d only be concerned about their view. As it was aimed at a wider audience I contend that many of his choices leave those viewers confused. I have the anecdotal evidence to support that feeling.

  4. The author of this post is LOST….This movie was fantastic and classic QT. In my opinion, it’s his best film. The only “mystery” is, who is the masked woman and I am intrigued to find out. She was highlighted for a reason and at first I thought it was Candy’s sister but realised I was wrong fairly quickly. As for scrolling text, double apperances, etc…sometimes QT pays homage to older films that have inspired him and may have included those very things in a film or films he loves….Movie was great….Get your head out of your ass.

    • James, there’s no shortage of other reviewers who also questioned the film. You believe it to be his best film. Great! I suspect a number of people would disagree.

      My contention, as I’ve said time and again, is simple: Paying homage is fine but it shouldn’t act as a means to confuse viewers who aren’t aware that this is going on. Again, nothing about the marketing of this film–NOTHING–made the case that this is Tarantino’s homage to spaghetti westerns or to anything. It was presented as a fully-realized standard movie. Instead, what I’m coming to realize, is that this is a film that benefits heavily from the viewer knowing, in advance, that this is an homage and contains many references to other films that the viewer may not be familiar with. I just wish I could have been made aware of that before going in. It would have helped.

      The movie was very similar, in many ways, to Inglorious Basterds and generating very similar buzz. Today few would call it a masterpiece or his best work. Recall that it was nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture and won for one of them (Best Supporting Actor for Christoph Waltz launching his career). This was nominated for 5 and, I feel, it should win the same exact one yet again.

  5. I’m inclined to agree with James. The over use of blood was a tribute to films that have influence Tarantino, mystery characters are the same way for him and both take a card from the 70’s era kung fu films that he loves. The movie is not a cerebral as you think, Rich. It’s a retelling Sigifried and Broonhilda, set in a western ( I can’t spell speghetti…or can I?). The language was on point and not blantantly racist as I have read in some post and reviews. The acting was great and as usual, Tarantino places an actor from the past in a roll that they shouldn’t be in, but works great (Don Johnson as Big Daddy). This movie should kill at the Oscars but may not just because people are jumping on the band wagon of dissing it to be PC. There is nothing non PC about this movie. Great movie, great cast, great writing and direction. I too am curious as to who the masked woman is and as well, thought is was the sister of DiCaprio’s character. I read somewhere that her showing up three times is a signal for KB Vol.3 but I don’t buy that. I have been thinking of this movie since I saw it and telling everyone to see it.

    • Ron, thanks for the post. I need to point out something a bit concerning. You reference James’ post and yet the site requires all posts to be approved first before they appear. Thus, you said you have to agree with James’ view to a post you wouldn’t have seen. Additionally these two posts were sent in within a few minutes of each other and, most interestingly, from the same exact IP address/computer.

  6. Also, I would love to be able to get hold of a few of the toys that were produced. They will be worth some $ seeing as how they have been pulled!

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