Review: Django Unchained / Cert: 18 / Director: Quentin Tarantino / Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino / Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson / Release Date: Out Now
He killed Bill. He killed Hitler. Now it's the turn of racist rednecks to get the Tarantino treatment. The director's mammoth blaxpoitation western comes to Blu-ray and, as Django would say, “What's not to like?”
Well, there's certainly no question of not liking Christoph Waltz's smart-talking King Schultz, a dentist turned bounty hunter who rides around on a wagon with a giant tooth mounted on the roof. Spouting witticisms, he liberates manacled Django (Foxx) from some slavers and offers him his freedom in exchange for helping him track down a trio of outlaws. What starts off as a business arrangement soon warms into a friendship as, under his tutelage, the dazed ex-slave blossoms into a self-confident character and a deadly marksman.
This first act is solid gunslinging fare, even if it is bulked out with endless skits about the stupidity of racists, such as the bit where some local clan boys bicker because they can't see out of their white hoods, much to the disgruntlement of the guy whose wife spent all day knocking the things up. But then comes the long middle section, in which the duo track down Django's wife Broomhilda (Washington) to a plantation and set about trying to get her back. Here we encounter DiCaprio's plantation owner, Calvin Candie, a “seasoned slaver” with the hollow eyes, pasty sheen and rotten teeth of a syphilitic. Exploiting black people both for work and play, he considers himself, in his twisted way, a connoisseur, and as such he's fascinated by the self-assertive Django. DiCaprio does a wonderful job in the role, getting underneath Tarantino's facetious dialogue and giving it extra barb and venom. Just as striking is Candie's house slave, Stephen (Jackson), a cantankerous Uncle Tom bursting with malice. The two interact in scenes of elaborate, ritualistic bickering between master and slave which evoke similar (and now notorious) moments in golden age Hollywood movies, only to expose the sinister dynamics behind them.
Taken on its own merits, this is undoubtedly the most interesting part of the film. Trouble is, its generous length and the sheer brilliance of DiCaprio and Jackson throw everything else out of whack, reducing Schultz and Django to supporting characters and making the bloodsoaked finale seem like a hastily tacked-on afterthought. And speaking of length, that mighty 2 ¾ hours running time really is a problem, because not only is Django Unchained not an epic, it's not even much of a spectacle, apart from some nice Spanish moss and a climactic gunfight almost swimming in ketchup. Oh, and how about that ending, where Django suddenly turns into Will Smith in Wild Wild West? Still, Tarantino has delivered another movie that gets you talking, and that's a lot in this day and age.
Extras: The Production Design of Django Unchained / Django Unchained Soundtrack Promo / The Horses and Stunts of Django Unchained / Costume Designs