Django Unchained (2012)

Written & Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino is a name known by many a movie-goer and he also seems to stir up a combination of cheers and groans. A controversial filmmaker without a doubt, I do readily admit that he has made some spectacular films. However, I also admit that he has made some duds, which are such because the excessive use of Tarantino-isms. Distinctive, QT certainly is, subtle he is not. His take on a Western? When I heard I was intrigued, for he did the WWII film, Inglourious Basterds, so well. And back as his star is Christoph Waltz alongside Jaime Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio. What could go wrong? Oh, you little devil, Quentin. You tricked me by making a good film 3 years ago. Now you give me this as a follow up. You got me.

Tarantino goes back to the same well for his story even, one of revenge for social, and very personal, injustices. The German Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz) is a bounty hunter, making money by killing fugitives of the law. When his next target is a three brothers he has never laid eyes on, Schultz, despite his dislike of slavery, buys a slave, Django (Jaime Foxx), who has seen the brothers. When Schultz learns of his new partner’s situation with his wife, the German named Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), he agrees to seek out her owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), after a winter of making money collecting bounties.

Usually negative reviews are the easiest kind to write, as much as I regret having to write them; and this review will certainly prove to be negative. Yet I find it hard to find where to start when I seemed to dislike pretty much the entire film. I know! I will start with the one thing I did enjoy about the film, the performances. All of the performances were pretty great, I must admit. I am not sure I could prefer one over the other, but Waltz, Foxx and DiCaprio make the film tick. Samuel L. Jackson was fun to watch too. But without them, I could have easily got up and walked out of the film, because while the performances were good, the characters were so poorly written, the narrative so frenetic in its attempt to be a Western that it ends up a complete mess.

Worst of all the transgressions committed by the film is the excessive and overly graphic violence of the film. Tarantino is know for his violent films, I understand that, I really do. Reservoir Dogs is a film I greatly admire, a lot because of the violence it features. But this film, and the style in which it was delivered just seemed blind and senseless. It felt like being repeatedly beaten over the head with a blunt instrument for 3 hours. The length of the film was also problematic. The film felt like it had the hiccups. It wasn’t quite stop and start but there was certainly something not quite right as the film went from scene to scene. It never seemed to be entirely coherent. I wonder how much of that has to do with Tarantino being without his normal editor, Sally Menke, who passed recently. Also noticeably absent is longtime Tarantino producer Lawrence Bender. His absence is a curious oddity, and it shows with the results of the film.

There will certainly be those who enjoy the film, who find the entertainment intended by Tarantino, but I must admit, this is the most Tarantino I have ever seen QT get in a film. He even goes so far as to appear himself in an atrocious role near the end of the film. Perhaps the only performance I didn’t like, I had to ask myself, “Was there no possible way to find just one more actor, would it have been that hard!?” The whole production just seems to be self-indulgent. It is wildly over the top, never seems to get its feet steady and the amount of violence was actually offensive to me (I can’t imagine what it did to the 5 year old kid in the row behind me). Bad parenting aside, I get what Tarantino was going for, and I get that people will have fun with this film, but I for one found myself in a quandary: am I proud of myself for sitting through the whole film and giving it as many chances as I did? Or am I disappointed in myself that I didn’t get up and walk out on the numerous occasions I felt moved to do so?

** – Fair


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