by Eric D. Snider
Released: December 25, 2012
Quentin Tarantino's eighth feature film, "Django Unchained," is his longest, his most narratively straightforward, and his N-word-iest. The godfather of modern gonzo filmmaking addresses American slavery and race relations the same way he has addressed other sensitive issues: by making a boisterously entertaining movie that couldn't be less interested in sensitivity. He's in it for the fun. If his amusing story about a resourceful ex-slave seeking vengeance against his tormenters happens to convey a message about the absurd moral wrongness of racism and slavery, well, that's cool. But the main thing is to have fun.
"Django Unchained" is fun -- explosive, outrageous, and bloody, with the kind of shrewd, eyebrow-raising bombast we've come to expect from Tarantino. It's brimming with imaginative grace notes -- a horse that curtsies when it's introduced; a francophile who doesn't know any French -- and freewheeling performances, not to mention a killer soundtrack that, like the movie itself, blends retro with modern. But it's less focused than usual, more meandering. In fact, it borders on the self-indulgent, first in its unjustified lengthiness, second in Tarantino's own embarrassing cameo. Our enthusiastic auteur has never been what you'd call "restrained" in the past, but at least he's generally been disciplined.
Beginning in 1858 somewhere in Texas, the film introduces us to Django (played by Jamie Foxx) while he's still un-unchained, trudging with a group of fellow slaves through the woods after being purchased at auction. The company encounters one Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), an unerringly polite and cheerful German-born dentist and bounty hunter who believes Django can help him find a particularly elusive quarry. The two end up pursuing common enemies and striving to rescue Django's wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), from her cruel new master, plantation owner Calvin Candie (an unusually animated Leonardo Di Caprio).
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Rated R, abundant harsh profanity and racial slurs, abundant bloody violence
2 hrs., 45 min.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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