At the Movies: Django Unchained

No new movies this weekend so it’s catchup time again. Just as well as I can’t imagine too many people wanting to spend Christmas day watching a violent, bloody Western. They were probably busy watching a violent, bloody musical.

Given the type of movies he’s made in the past, it was only a matter of time before Quentin Tarantino took aim at the wild, wild West. “Django Unchained” has many of the tics you expect from a Tarantino film — retro credits, eclectic soundtrack, sharp dialogue, intriguing characters, ultra-violence and it’s about a half-hour too long.

Theatrical-Poster-For-Django-UnchainedThe action takes place two years before the Civil War. Jamie Foxx stars as Django (the D is silent), a slave who is purchased by Dr. King Schultz  (Christoph Waltz) a former dentist turned bounty hunter. Schultz needs Django’s help in tracking down his latest prey.

When their business is completed, Schultz gives Django his freedom. Django expresses his intent to go to Mississippi and find his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Moved by his story, Schultz agrees to go with Django in the spring if he agrees to be his bounty hunting partner through the winter.

Records reveal Broomhilda has been sold to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), owner of the plantation known as “Candyland.” Schultz concocts a (needlessly) complicated ruse to get Broomhilda away from Candie and it probably would have worked were it not for the interference of Candie’s head house slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson).

Overlong and sometimes disjointed, “Django Unchained” is visually flashy, very bloody and a lot of fun. There’s sweeping choreography, unexpected bits of humor, plenty of gunfire and explosions, and several terrific performances.

Waltz, who won over audiences and critics  as the charismatic bad guy in Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” this time gets to play the charismatic good guy as Django’s mentor. It’s an equally compelling performance. Jackson is also delightful as the suspicious house slave who isn’t nearly as dumb as the act he puts on for Candie and company. Foxx gives a strong performance even if it’s not as flashy as his supporting players.

Tarantino’s work is not for everyone, but if you’ve enjoyed his films — particularly the “Kill Bill” duo — you’ll probably enjoy this one.

 

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