Sunday, January 20, 2013

Revised Movie Review: Django Unchained

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson

Running time 2 hours, 45 minutes

Rated R

Django Unchained, directed by Quentin Tarantino, is offensive, quixotic, and unforgivingly violent. At its heart lies a villain so despicable and greasy that recalling his leering, half-rotted smile sends chills up the spine. 

But while that eerie shiver symbolizes fear and contempt, it also reflects unrestrained delight.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as Calvin Candie, a wealthy plantation owner who forces slaves to fight for sport, is deplorably delightful. He moves fluidly from charming host to vile slave hater.

One moment DiCaprio offers his guests dessert, the next he slams down his hand, crushing a crystal glass and spurting blood everywhere. (According to Variety, the blood is real and DiCaprio actually required stitches.)

Like DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson's performance as Stephen, a grumpy and sharp-tongued house slave, also leaves a lasting impression. His semi-crippled shuffle and sardonic expressions reveal more about his character than do his words.   

The film is set on the cusp of the U.S. Civil War and opens "somewhere in Texas." It tells the story of an unlikely business partnership between a well-to-do white bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Waltz) and a quick-witted black slave called Django (Foxx).

Django Unchained offers a refreshing alternative to pre-Emancipation Proclamation scripts of white power. For once, the black guy is the hero and idealized for "killing white folks and getting paid for it." (Though the question begs to be asked, is this a white director’s story to tell?)

The guts and gore that have earned Tarantino his reputation are as explosive and goopy as ever. Handguns and rifles are the weapons of choice, yet hammers, whips, and flesh-eating dogs make appearances as well.  

Despite the serious subject, the script is sprinkled with unfiltered humor that is both uncomfortable and hilarious. A scene of silly banter among the KKK wagon raiders on the impracticality of masks with tiny eyeholes, for example, is side-splittingly funny. These comedic scenes, the zingy one-liners, and the eclectic soundtrack, make the 2 hour and 45 minute film move.

The sets are unassuming and the costumes are modest, except for Django's brilliant blue suit. The movie’s X factor is really the talented cast and crew, including cinematographer Robert Bridge Richardson. The magnified takes of beer foam and gun barrels give depth and breadth to everyday objects.

It’s no secret that Tarantino is a master of his craft. Django Unchained proves he’s done it again.

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