Skip to main content

The Pratfall of 'Django Unchained'

Will Smith is the most marketable movie star in the world. Between Men In Black, Independence Day, and Bad Boys Mr. Smith is the man responsible for most summer blockbusters. He is recognized everywhere and virtually liked by all. That is until the release of Seven Pounds. Seven Pounds was the follow-up collaboration between Will Smith and director Gabriele Muccino after the critical success The Pursuit of Happyness (which earned Smith his second Best Actor nomination). It was a emotionally raw performance and a brave one at that.

Unfortunately, it was also panned across the board. Despite Smith's portrayal Seven Pounds was declared melodrama at its worst. At some portions the film is unrelentingly ghoulish which makes the role of Ben Thomas that much more important to cast correctly. Ben has to be empathetic, he has to be good, but he also has to be superhumanly giving. Even with everything Smith gave to his character it wasn't enough. And for many critics the maudlin ending was too much. The film received no accolades, nor did its star.

Flash forward three years and Will Smith has been virtually invisible. Only recently he has started work on Men In Black 3 and signed deals for a Bad Boys sequel and possibly Quentin Tarantino's next western, Django Unchained. Django presents many opportunities and conflicts for the megastar. On one hand accepting the role would open the creative passage that Mr. Smith has seemingly been avoiding since Seven Pounds, but like all creative opportunities, backlash could await. Tarantino has never been known for subtlety  and Django Unchained is said to contain liberal use of racial slurs, something that could be a thorn for Smith, who manages his profile very carefully.

What it all comes down to is whether the lure of busting outside Mr. Smith's combed image will be too much to resist. The role of Django comes with some questionable material, but the part is a heroic one. Denzel Washington, known for being one of the best actors of his generation, won much acclaim, but never the big prize until Training Day. Washington has never been the man to turn down a potentially darker role and his career has benefited from it. The question will be whether Mr. Smith decides to do the same.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…

Review: Anomalisa

Weird is rarely used as a good quality in film criticism, but few words so completely describe Charlie Kaufman’s work as weird does. All of his films are a window into his very particular worldview, and that p.o.v. is certainly unlike anything seen in pop culture. For that reason, Anomalisa became an entry on many most anticipated lists for 2015. That Kaufman chose stop-motion to tell this story made the picture an event. So it came as a disappointment when the film was one of the year’s more mundane efforts.

Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have an energy and heart at the center that is not present here. Previous collaborators like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry were able to temper the overwhelming negativity Charlie Kaufman occasionally falls prey to, but, this time, the writer doesn’t have a director to rein things in. In all of his efforts to create an experience that is both familiar and alienating, Kaufman may have accidentally created something host…

Review: Selma

It may surprise many that Martin Luther King Jr. never received the celluloid treatment prior to Selma. Sure he had been mentioned in other historical pieces, but short of documentary footage, King was never given center stage. Quite shocking given the man's legacy and the lingering effect of his efforts still felt today. Several years of production and a director change later, Selma arrives as the film worthy of the man.