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Django Unchained

2012 | 165 min | R | 2.39:1

Django Unchained


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User reviews

5 user reviews

Movie appeal

Dark humor100%


Theatrical release date

 25 December, 2012
 18 January, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Django Unchained


Screenshots from Django Unchained Blu-ray

Django Unchained Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, December 24, 2012

With “Django Unchained,” writer/director Quentin Tarantino manufactures his most unsatisfying film since bursting onto the scene with 1992’s “Reservoir Dogs.” Not that “Unchained” is a disaster, far from it at times, actually, but there’s a lethargy here that’s disconcerting, blocking a lovely view of all the cinematic tributes and screen artistry that typically resides in Tarantinoland. A violent, winded take on spaghetti westerns, “Django Unchained” features all the helmer’s trademarks and casting appetites, locked into an overlong event that’s sporadically enchanting and daring, lacking the fresh pace and series of bruising confrontations that helped Tarantino’s last effort, 2009’s “Inglourious Basterds,” to soar.

It’s two years before the Civil War, and former dentist Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) is hunting for a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx). Freeing the weary man from his captors, Schultz offers Django an opportunity to excel by joining him as a bounty hunter, traveling all over the south on the hunt for financial opportunities. Proving himself a worthy partner, Django shares his desire to retrieve his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), from ruthless plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a vile man who’s made a fortune off “Mandingo fighting” with his slaves. With Django trained as a gunfighter, ready to retrieve his tortured bride, Schultz enters the plantation with a plan to enchant Candie into selling Broomhilda to the pair. However, when Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), Candie’s number one property and confidant, catches wind of the scheme, his suspicions threaten to disrupt Django’s concentration, rattling Candie to his core.

“Django Unchained” is Tarantino’s eighth picture and his first foray into the western genre, though most of his oeuvre could easily qualify as urban incarnations of classic cowboy tales. Ever the prankster, Tarantino (inspired by the 1966 film “Django” starring Franco Nero, who cameos here) takes the adventure to a time of racial bigotry and volcanic hate, spinning the story during a tumultuous era, with our heroes cutting through a troubling series of encounters with slave owners and treacherous plantations, coming across characters who treat the N-word as their personal pal (Spike Lee isn’t going to be happy with this movie). It’s an acidic landscape of torture, suffering, and intimidation, providing fertile ground for the filmmaker to craft his own superhero story with the titular character -- a broken man handed a golden opportunity to retrieve his beloved and mow down abominable Caucasians with his increasing skills as a gunfighter.

Although the recipe for “Django Unchained” seems foolproof, promising a surefire actioner, the execution is on the weary side, with Tarantino taking his time massaging idiosyncrasy and indulging his fondness for monologues. Speeches from every character pad out the screenplay, ranging from a deeply disturbing lesson in slave phrenology from Candie to Schultz’s persistent professionalism, hoping to disarm his enemies with his jovial yet purposeful deference as he carries out the dirty, often confusing work of killing men for money. The language is peppered and feisty, yet Tarantino gets carried away with his dialogue, creating a traffic jam of loquaciousness in the second half of the 160-minute-long picture. Having tragically lost his longtime editor, the masterful Sally Menke, in 2010, “Django Unchained” (stitched together by Fred Raskin) doesn’t have the snap of previous Tarantino efforts, bogged down in superfluous scenes that offer more tell than show. While this is the director’s first non-episodic feature in some time, the general pace of “Django Unchained” doesn’t reflect a drive to tell a singular story, often chasing tangents and wallowing in excess, including a few broadly comedic passages that channel Mel Brooks’s “Blazing Saddles.” Tarantino is tremendously gifted in many genres, but slapstick comedy eludes his wizardry.

“Django Unchained” is overweight, but it’s not without its charms, finding its enormous cast skilled with the challenge of expressing horror and hilarity in the same moment. Foxx is surprisingly understated in the starring role, working hard to exude cool in terrific costuming, while communicating the silent storm burning within Django as he inches closer to his wife. It’s Waltz who steals the feature, delivering big on personality as Schultz cordially winds his way around his enemies, while sharing his German heritage with anyone who will listen. The actor is an ideal translator for Tarantino’s scripting, turning long passages of dialogue into a verbal ballet of playful energy. More sinister is DiCaprio, growling and rotting as Candie, working temper tantrums and the character’s false sense of worldliness to quaking extremes. It’s Jackson who’s the most puzzling, going full-bore as Candie’s right-hand man, playing traditional house slave submissiveness with a decidedly Jacksonesque vulgarity, reminding the audience of the defiant screen star underneath the semi-convincing old-age make-up. And for those playing at home, Tarantino regulars Zoe Bell and Michael Parks appear, while the supporting cast includes Don Johnson, Tom Wopat, James Remar (in two roles), John Jarrat, and Bruce Dern. Heck, even Tarantino appears near the end of the film, still hoping to convince audiences he can act.

This is a violent, borderline sadistic effort, with graphic scenes of torture and suffering, while bullet hits don’t just pop, they explode like Cherry Gushers. Tarantino is after something grand with “Django Unchained” that’s only partially realized, with the brutality and assorted travel and training montages scored to an eclectic mix of soundtrack selections, including a few ill-advised rap detours (one song samples sound clips from Django himself, which comes off slightly tacky). It’s a bright picture flush with Tarantino DNA, but it doesn’t piece together as smoothly as his previous work, which is especially confounding considering how similar it is to his past successes. “Django Unchained” is certainly appealing and occasionally rowdy, likely to please those in the mood to spot cinema references and revel in stylized filmmaking. However, its six-gun of considerable size is missing a few bullets.

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Johnson
Director: Quentin Tarantino

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