Django Unchained Review: The Most Fun Film About Slavery Ever Made

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Quentin Tarantino lends his signature style to both the spaghetti western and blaxploitation in this bloody, darkly comic revenge flick.

The film lives up to its title right from the start as Django (Jamie Foxx) is unchained when dentist-turned-bounty-hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) frees him in the opening scene. Django becomes his partner because “Kill white people and get paid for it? What’s not to like?”

But it wouldn’t be a Tarantino film if there wasn’t a revenge fueled protagonist. Schultz promises to help Django find his wife (Kerry Washington) after a winter of bounty hunting. She is owned, however, by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a ruthless plantation owner of Mississippi.

With so few characters, this is Tarantino’s most linear film since 1997’s Jackie Brown, lacking the chapters that divided up Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds.

Still though, if you are a fan of the director (and let’s be real, how can you not be?), then you know what’s coming and will leave the theater more than satisfied. If you aren’t a fan, steer clear.

In tone, Django Unchained feels like a cross between the revenge opera Kill Bill and the history bending Inglourious Basterds. Sure, Django’s quest isn’t quite as emotional as the Bride’s in Kill Bill, and the plot isn’t as well thought out or engaging as Basterds, but the mash-up works well in its own right, largely due to the unrelenting humor, making for a unique, yet undeniably Tarantino-esque film.

Waltz brings much of his charm and charisma to Schultz that he brought to Hans Landa in Basterds back in 2009. Though the role is switched and he plays the hero this time.

Another key Tarantino returner is Samuel L. Jackson as Candie’s right hand man Stephen. His performance brings a lot of humor to an already funny film.

Foxx is a quiet yet powerful lead. He won’t be remembered as well as some other classic Tarantino protagonists but that is the nature of his character.

The real star though is DiCaprio as the scene stealing villain. Just as Waltz did with Hans Landa, DiCaprio doesn’t just create a classic Tarantino villain, but a classic movie villain that will be remembered long after the film concludes its box office run.

And with such a foe, it is peculiar that the blood bath of a climax feels split in two. Separated by almost half an hour, the film essentially feels like it wants to end twice, and that meandering middle part feels, to be blunt, pointless. Why not just finish after the first half? All the character growth is done. The problem is close to being resolved. It feels unnecessary for an already long movie to reach its climax, side step, then end up in the same place again to finish the job.

Aside from that, Django Unchained is a must see for those already in the Tarantino fan circle. And it may win over a few outsiders. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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