Review: Tarantino’s Spaghetti Western ‘Django Unchained’
Quentin Tarantino has made an homage to the Spaghetti Westerns of the '60s with a dab of Blaxploitation of the '70s. Beginning "Somewhere in Texas" his 2 hr. 45 min. epic "Django Unchained" focuses on the journey of a freed slave played by Jamie Foxx - who seeks vengeance against the men who brutalized him and his wife (Kerry Washington). Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz, in a Golden Globe nominated performance) becomes Django's mentor in the field of bounty hunting after "purchasing" him off a couple of slave traders. Schultz then explains to Django that the men he's looking for, The Brittle Brothers, are the same ones Django wants to find. In exchange for helping him find them, Schultz vows to assist him in getting his wife back from "Monsieur" Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio, also nominated).
Before the duo can do those things, however, Schultz makes a deal with Django to become his bounty hunter partner - training him in the ways of the profession. Before long, Django proves to be a natural when they take on bounties and come across colorful characters including the Ku Klux Klan. Inspired in part by the 1966 Sergio Corbucci film, "Django," this film is not a sequel but a re-imagining of sorts of the Western legend. Franco Nero who starred in the original film makes a cameo, serving to get rid of the confusion on the "D" being silent. Fans of the old Spaghetti Western will also recognize the theme song present in the opening titles.
Tarantino's interesting representation of the genre is not his best effort, but still stands as an excellent film. Looking past the over-the-top, brutal, violence and continuous use of the "n" word, lies a good story with a different kind of villain at its core. DiCaprio delivers one of his best performances as the charismatic owner of the plantation known as "Candie Land," who is just as brutal as his Southern hospitality - forcing slaves to fight each other, etc.
A noticeable missing characteristic from the film though is the use of chapters, or the story being shown out of order. The dialogue in the film its one of its strong suits, being typical of Tarantino screenplays. It occurs in intense situations that don't necessarily get disturbed by gunshots, not right away at least. In terms of gore, imagine Robert Rodriguez's style of exploding blood in "Planet Terror," or "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" with guns instead of swords. Tarantino's notorious fascination with the "n" word leaves not too many other bad words muttered, but in the setting the treatment of slaves is viciously believable. While still being over-the-top with a slight feel of overall pretentiousness, by the time the film is over all you can say is: "That's typical Tarantino," which is never a bad thing.
The film also includes performances from James Remar, Walton Goggins, Don Johnson, and Samuel L. Jackson as Candie's villainous house servant. Also, keep an eye out for Jonah Hill, Bruce Dern, Michael Parks, and Quentin Tarantino among others. Along with the Golden Globe nominations for DiCaprio and Waltz in the Best Supporting Actor category, Tarantino earned nods for his screenplay and directing with a nomination for Best Picture - Drama to boot.
"Django Unchained" is now playing in theaters everywhere, having made a $15 million Christmas debut.