Last night, I headed out to our new Carmike to see Django: Unchained, Quentin Tarantino’s newest flick, and the second film in his “revisionist history” collection. The first installment was of course, Inglourious Basterds, and if you missed out on the fun of seeing Hitler finally meet his match to a few American Soldiers led by a Tennessee Hillbilly version of Brad Pitt, I’d suggest renting it quickly.
Full disclosure demands that I admit to being a big Tarantino fan. My first film experience with Tarantino was at Chicago’s infamous Brew and View, and it was a darned good one. I also have to admit that there are 3 distinct Tarantinos, and sometimes it’s difficult to love them all. In his early days, Tarantino made films that were daring. He took chances that no one else would ever take. Later, he went awry, making films that were almost unwatchable. These days, his movies are fun for the masses, but lack the risk-taking that was his trademark years ago. Now, on to Django…
First things first- I’m not positive that the freed slave Django, who is played excellently by Jamie Foxx, is the movies main character at all. In fact, if it weren’t for the extra, unnecessary 30 minute 2nd ending, I’d be positive he wasn’t. That honor surely goes to Christoph Waltz, who plays the German Doctor King, a dentist turned bounty hunter in the American West. Waltz is incredible in the role. So good in fact, that I believe he may be one day lauded as the man responsible for saving Tarantino from himself, much like Tarantino was praised for resurrecting Travolta in Pulp Fiction. Waltz continues to be a crowd and critic pleaser, and with good reason. If there are any flaws in his performance, I certainly don’t see them. He plays King with just the right amount of toughness and kindness, never losing the balance.
Together, King and Django embark on a journey to bring to justice three evil brothers who have an evil streak that causes them to hurt slaves in ways that Django personally remembers. It’s through bringing these brothers to justice (swift and violent jusice remains one of Tarantino’s trademarks) that King hears of Django’s plight and the loss of his wife, Broomhilda, who has been sold as a slave to the deliciously wicked Calvin Candie, the owner of “Candie Land”, one of the South’s most infamous plantations. Candie is played to perfection by Leonardo DiCaprio, who captures us in his innocent love of evil. I’m trying to remember the last time a villain made me feel so comfortable, and no one comes to mind. It’s almost difficult to hate Candie. That is of course, until he allows his slaves to be murdered and torn apart by dogs. There was a time that it was fun to hate DiCaprio and never like his movies – That time is long gone.
Unfortunately, the film isn’t perfect. There is the issue of Samuel Jackson, who plays some sort of evil slave. We never find out how he got so evil or why he would sell out his fellow slaves to his master. He sounds and acts like every other Samuel Jackson character, but this time as an old man. Also, the “extra ending” is painful. There is no need for it, and it seems to make us lose touch with Django and King’s friendship in their final moments together. I’m just not positive that many movies need to approach the 3 hour mark, but Hollywood seems to disagree with me. In the end though, Tarantino has made a fine Western film, and one that manages to be sincere, funny, and action packed. It’s also worthy of praise for this reason alone – A lot of people like to decry slavery. Very few will write an entire film about slave owners getting what’s coming to them as rap music plays, bullets fly, and plantations explode.