Skip to main content

Review: Django Grabbed His Gun (Django Unchained)


Eight directorial outings into his filmography, Quentin Tarantino has become his own genre. Riffing on gangster films, Asian cinema, war flicks, and with Django Unchained, the Western. The Western is perhaps the most sacred film to most Americans as its inception unfolded in the U.S. It seems fitting that Tarantino should try to rip the band-aid off of America's great shame in a Western.

With all of that said, all the anxiety punctuated by talk of race is swept aside quickly and efficiently. This is not a dissection of slavery, it is a tale of the lengths one man will go to save his wife. Django (Jamie Foxx, exemplifying the words on Jules Winnfield's wallet) is freed by a German bounty hunter on the hunt for the Brittle Brothers.

Only Django has seen these men's faces and Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) offers him a deal: help him find the brothers and he will help Django find Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Schultz teaches Django the tools of the trade and he picks it up quickly.

To Django's horror, Schultz informs him that Broomhilda is being by none other than Calvin Candie.

Calvin Candie (a despicably entertaining Leonardo DiCaprio) is the proprietor of Cleopatra Club, a place of refinement, where slaves are forced to beat each other to death or be killed. Candie is a boy who was never told he couldn't have sweets, now, that has led to lurid activities brought to the forefront for his endless amusement. The term schadenfreude may have been invented specifically for him.

If Django is to get her back, he and Schultz will have to avoid the watchful eye of Candie's servant Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson).

Casting has always been a specialty for Tarantino, yet this may be his finest lineup to date. From the great pairings of Foxx/Waltz and DiCaprio/Jackson all the way down to character actors like Don Johnson and Walton Goggins. Everything is aces. There were those who were skeptical of Foxx's casting originally, but he has the charisma to pull this off. Similarly, DiCaprio playing a vicious slave-owner could have resulted in career suicide, yet his devilish turn succeeds.

A film like this could only have been handled by Mr. Tarantino. All of his films involve a knowing wink at the audience and while that worked with revisionist history in Inglourious Basterds, covering race in such a bold manner could raise more viewer's dander. Django Unchained could have very quickly become crass, with such a non-reverent take on a divisive subject, but the riveting dialogue and superb performances from the three leads guarantee entertainment throughout the picture.

Tarantino doesn't have the same across-the-board respect as a director like Martin Scorsese, but the genuine enthusiasm for cinema is there in spades. Westerns have been slowly dying over the last decade, but Django is a staple of what the genre has to offer. Tarantino knows each beat and every flow down to the final showdown. This will be one of the pictures that cements his legacy.

***1/2 out of ****

Popular posts from this blog

Herman Melville and Office Space

Just from gleaning the surface of Office Space one would assume that there isn't anything simmering below the surface except for a raunchy work-comedy, but they would be wrong. After the harsh critical reception of his greatest work Moby Dick Melville wrote a collection of short stories called Bartleby and Benito Cereno perhaps the greatest slam at the time against industrial America. Bartleby is the story of a Wall Street copyist who has his three employees proof-read and copy law forms. Shortly into the story Bartleby starts responding to work commands with, "I would prefer not to." Frustrated by his employee's subordination the Narrator tries to have him fired but Bartleby refuses to leave the office. The Narrator comes back the following morning to find Bartleby living inside his office. Bartleby becomes increasingly less apt to perform basic functions as eating after he is jailed for trespassing and dies in a jail cell. What at once starts out as a comedy

The Best of the Decade

Over the last ten years, the cinema has given us a great deal to be thankful for: a rebirth of the Batman franchise, a series of examinations of what it means to live in this particular decade, and a mass of character studies whether they be animated or popcorn thrillers. As much as I have enjoyed the offerings, a list must be culled together for the end of the year. Except this year is different, this year ten films must be selected from hundreds. Below are some of the best of the aughts. Enjoy! 10) There Will Be Blood Paul Thomas Anderson's magnum opus, a scathing look at extremism in America and the evils of greed and profiteering from religion. It also features the best performance of the decade with Daniel Day-Lewis as oil-man Daniel Plainview. 9)  Up A beautiful tale that entrances all ages,  Up managed to captivate children and tell a tale that adults cherish as well. 8) The Dark Knight Maybe just a comic book film, but it is the best comic book film

The Vault: PCU (1994)

It's fair to say that a lot of comedians, and people in general, have had issues with political correctness, particularly when it is taken to extremes. People worry, and rightfully so, about cultural movements that aim to limit freedoms. PCU was released in 17 years ago, in 1994, when public worries about political correctness were cresting. It's a standard college comedy with the standard cast of characters: the everyman, Jeremy Piven plays the Van Wilder archetype; the stoner, Jon Favreau puts in an early role as the oft-confused Gutter; David Spade takes a turn as the wealthy elite; we also have the frosh, the love interest, and other standards. PCU fails to make a coherent argument against political correctness. The premise is that all the tolerance of different groups is fracturing society, while it would be better if we were all as one. You know, e pluribus unum and all that jazz. It's a pretty weak thesis, considering that political correctness originated as a