Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2013)

What’s it about? Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave freed by bounty hunter Dr Schulz (Christoph Waltz). In return for helping him track down his bounties, Dr Schulz promises to help Django track down the whereabouts of his wife.


Is it any good? Yep. It’s by no means perfect, but it's Tarantino's best film in years, delivering all the muthafuckin’ things we’ve come to expect from him. First, the good things. It’s full of those dialogue-heavy scenes that Tarantino loves writing, and the actors have great fun with them. Waltz is eloquent and witty throughout, Leonardo DiCaprio relishes playing the odious bad guy Calvin Candie and Samuel L Jackson puts a bit of a twist on his usual Angry Black Man role. Naturally, it’s pretty violent, but Tarantino finds comedy in that violence to good effect, with some laugh out loud moments amongst all the bloodshed. Inappropriate? Perhaps. Funny? Absolutely. And, of course, it all plays due homage to the Spaghetti Westerns and blaxploitation films that inspired the story, with plentiful cameos to look out for (Franco Nero, the original Django, pops up, as does Don Johnson, and not forgetting Luke flippin’ Duke!). Plus there's a typically eclectic soundtrack (an Unchained Medley, if you will - WACCA WACCA!!!!!), although I’d have preferred more Ennio Morricone and less hip-hop. So that’s all good. Unfortunately, Tarantino's track record means we’ve also come to expect some self-indulgent mis-steps from him, and this is no different. In fact, much like Tarantino himself at the minute, the film is a bit bloated, rambles on a bit too long and has trouble finding a focus, with the separate elements not all sitting comfortably together. Now, it’s his film and he can do what he wants with it, but even Tarantino would be hard-pressed to claim that his own bizarrely-accented appearance makes this a better film. No matter, despite being too long and a little untidy, it’s still a marked improvement on his recent output and worth catching.
"You're one racist
muthafucka, boy"
I don’t trust you. What do others think? We're all adults here, aren't we? I can use the word 'nigger' here without being sued or harassed or threatened, I trust? Well, it's certainly used a lot in the film, to the chagrin of many observers who accuse Tarantino of being (a) racist (b) offensive (c) insensitive to the subject of slavery (d) a wannabe black man (e) all of the above. Tarantino has responded by (a) rambling inarticulately about his experience of black culture and research into slavery (b) letting Samuel L Jackson fight his corner for him (c) dancing with delight at all the extra media coverage the film is getting, which is doing the box-office returns no harm at all. Look, the film is obviously not a serious study of slavery in the US, why get all hot and bothered about it? Here's a rather measured take on it all from author Candace Allen. Oh, I've just been handed a note by my lawyers. Apparently, my choice of word above means I am getting sued and harassed for being (a) racist (b) offensive......etc, etc. Yeah, well I'm ginger, so I say I'm the one being discriminated against here. To the courts!

Anything else I should know? Here's a handy cut-out-and-keep guide to Tarantino's output so far, presented as a calculus graph. Students of Haematology will note it is similar to the osmotic fragility of red blood cells. Therefore, it is clear that what Tarantino needs to increase the quality of his films is more blood and less salt.

 
 
What does the Fonz think? EnDjoyable. The D is silent.
 


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