Jamie Foxx stars as the titular character named Django, who is an escaped slave who teams up with bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from sadistic plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Let’s just get it all out in the open and out of the way for everybody to see and understand before I jump any further into this review: this was my most anticipated flick of the year. Obviously, I’m not much different from others out there in the movie-world, and it’s probably no shock to any of you out there who know that Quentin Tarantino is one, if not my favorite writers/directors working today. This has been a passion-project of his since day 1 and it only seems right that after knocking-out homers left-and-right over the past 20 years, that he finally get to do, what he does best: showing us a little piece of his sick, but original mind.
Everything you see in this flick is exactly what you would expect from a Tarantino flick: crazy characters, wacky dialogue, oodles of violence, ironic use of pop-music, homages to classic flicks that only he and about 5 others actually “get”, and a huge deal of suspense, that almost seems to come out of nowhere. These are the staples of Tarantino’s flicks and as much as they have came-out to be nothing short of expected by now, that still is in no way, shape or form an insult or negative about Tarantino and this movie, because it’s still freakin’ awesome and probably the most original flick I’ve seen all year.
The topic of racism is what really stands in the front of the line with this movie and even though the flick basically takes place during 1858, in the South where slavery runs high and mighty amongst rich, white men, the topic is never used to be thoughtful, or even used as a metaphor for the world we are in now. It’s basically used as another tool for Tarantino to show loads and loads of gruesome/graphic violence and actually give it meaning, rather than throw it at the screen and hoping that it will make sense in the grander scheme of things. Nope, Tarantino’s not all about that and anybody who complained about Inglorious Basterds not being the action-packed, gore-ride they were expecting from QT, then he will definitely shut you up with this one because every piece of violence here, is bloody, gory, and ever so stylized, as we can always expect from Tarantino. Sometimes it’s almost too vicious to watch but hey, that’s not a bad thing considering this is coming from a movie who’s director had 15-minutes of a movie dedicated to a chick hacking-up people, all-over-the-place, with a samurai sword, of all weapons to choose.
The violence in this movie definitely stands-out among the rest of what Tarantino uses here, but the script is even better and is classic-Tarantino, at it’s finest. As usual, we get a lot of the witty, catchy-banter between characters that seems almost too energetic to be true, but Tarantino really works himself hard as a writer, especially with this movie, because he actually goes somewhere we never really expected him to in the first-place: comedy. Yeah, it may seem like a bit of a head scratcher that I would talk about how much comedy Tarantino uses and how it surprised the hell out of me because with the flicks that he’s done over the years, it would seem like he’s been doing comedy forever. To be honest, Tarantino has always had a knack for incorporating a great-deal of humor into his scripts, but not as obvious and not as important as it is used here. There are so many scenes here that just had me laughing, not just because Tarantino is doing something that only I, as a movie-geek, actually get, but more or less because he is actually trying to make me laugh and it worked so, so very well.
However, as much as he may put the emphasis on comedy this time-around, Tarantino still never forgets to switch things up and make it more dark and serious, and the tonal-changes are swift, unnoticeable, and always deserved. You know once Tarantino gets into his “serious mode”, then all of the violence and, in a way, more comedy actually comes about since this is the type of material that Tarantino strives for and always seems to have a blast with. Certain scenes would really catch me off-guard because here I would be expecting it to be a scene where a couple of people are sittin’ around, shootin’ the shit, and basically being a bunch of goof balls, but then would all of a sudden change into this very dark and tense scene, where all hell is about to break-loose and anybody you actually care about in this movie, could be gone as quick as you can say the word, “dead”. Seriously, just that snap of a finger, and all of a sudden a scene does a total 180 where we don’t even know what to expect. That sure unpredictability is exactly what I come to expect from Tarantino and it’s put to good-use here, so many damn times that I was literally sweating with tension at-times. The idea of not knowing where a film is going to land next, is always my favorite-aspect of a movie and here, it’s only better because it’s Tarantino and this guy always seems to have a blast with just fucking around with the audience, their minds, and their moods. That damn Tarantino! He’s always so snarky.
Even if Tarantino seems to be having a ball with this movie, he’s not having the most fun. Actually, that utter sense of joy and pleasure goes right to the ensemble cast, who are all amazing, well-picked, and having the time of their lives just doing what they do best: act their asses off. When I first heard about Jamie Foxx’s casting as Django, I thought it was a tad unoriginal, and just another-way for Foxx to go around, acting all cool and jive, while wearing a cowboy hat. You know, in an ironic-way. I wasn’t really-looking forward to seeing him play this role, but you know what? Foxx kicks-ass in it and it’s a huge wonder as to why I ever doubted the dude in the first-place. Foxx isn’t as front-and-center with this story as you may think, but whenever he does get the time to shine and do his own thing, he owns it, and doesn’t even have to say anything. Sometimes the emotions on his face tell it all and as easy it is to make us feel something for a slave that wants to be free and get his wife back, it’s even easier to make us feel something for a character that we know can fight his own battles and not ask for sympathy. Django, in terms of the actual-character, is the perfect, Spaghetti Western cowboy, because he’s soft-spoken, cool, but always has something witty to say on his mind. And Foxx owns that role to a T.
In the past 3 years, ever since Basterds hit the theaters and made Christoph Waltz a bona-fide star, it seems like Hollywood has never been able to capitalize on the guy’s real talents as a serious and dramatic actor. However, Tarantino knows how to use the guy best and shows that with every-line of dialogue that comes out of this man’s mouth. Waltz plays Dr. King Schultz, the nicer-version of Hans Landa, but still is just as sadistic and smart. What makes Schultz such a great character is that the guy is always one-step ahead of everybody else around him. He always knows to act in every situation, he always knows the right things to say, he always knows how to keep his cool, when shit starts to get heavy, but the most-important factor of his character out of all, is that he always knows how to kill anybody that stands in his way. He’s a violent bastard that seems like the type of guy you want to be bounty hunters with, but as time goes on and he starts to have heavier obstacles thrown in his way, Schultz starts to fold under pressure and show how sometimes, Django is better-suited for certain situations. It’s a great dynamic the two characters have, and it’s heightened even more, mainly because of the pitch-perfect chemistry between the two that always seems to feature the best lines in the whole movie.
I was mainly looking forward to this movie for many, many reasons, but I think the most, out of all, surprisingly, was the fact that this was Leonardo DiCaprio’s first, main-role as a villain in lord only knows how long, here as Calvin Candie. I’ve always been a huge fan of Leo and all that he’s been able to do in the past decade or so, but even I will admit, his act seemed to get a little stiff by the 10th time he played a confused, and troubled victim of something bad being played against him. It was the same-old routine in almost every movie he seemed to sign-up for and even though the guy did awesome with that routine, it started to become glaringly old, and a role as a campy, over-the-top slave owner, in a QT film, sounded like the perfect-way to spice things up in the dude’s career. And damn, was I ever so happy that I was right about that sweet, soothing sound.
DiCaprio is, well, how should I put it? Perfect in a role like this. Calvin Candie is cunning, funny, campy, and very, very sly in his way of handling himself through every situation he’s put into but you can always tell that there’s something darker lying beneath the surface and the way DiCaprio handles all of that, is probably the best-acting he’s done in awhile. DiCaprio doesn’t just explode with anger, rage, and energy whenever the camera’s on him. No, he just lets it sit there, watching him, letting us know his character, all that he is, all that he does, and all that he can be, if he has to turn the other-cheek and be an evil asshole like we all expect him to be. Eventually, Candie does turn into that evil asshole we expected to see from him right-away, but DiCaprio is so good and so masterful at portraying it, that you really cannot take your eyes off of him. No matter how hard anybody else around him actually tries, DiCaprio is the one that steals the spotlight in every scene he has, and it’s just perfect to watch, especially coming from a guy who’s been wanting a role like this for Leo, for the longest-time. When he loses his shit, he loses it in the most-hardcore way of all and demands your attention, rather than simply asking for it, in the kind-way, Candie likes to fool people with. I really don’t think I can hit the head on the nail as much as I have already, but I’m just going to leave my whole two, orgasm paragraphs on Leo by saying this: that motherfucker deserves the Oscar this year. I’m done, I’ve said it, and yet, I still feel like I haven’t said enough! Aaaaahhhh! Leonardo DiCaprio is perfect. End. Of. Story.
Now that that is over with, let me move onto everybody else that deserves a bit of a shine from the spotlight as well. Samuel L. Jackson seems to be another-one in this cast that’s having a ball as the head house slave Stephen, a total Uncle Tom from head-to-toe in terms of appearance, and mental-state also. From the first-shot of the guy, Samuel L. is almost unrecognizable as Stephen, but as time goes on, you get it in your head that it is Samuel L., doing his funny-as-hell, loud yelling and screaming that we always expect from the guy and it’s just so great to watch, especially since it seems like Samuel L. in his comfort-zone. I don’t know if the guy ever left to begin-with, but watching him just have a blast with a role and take over the screen like he does, is always a joy to watch in my book.
Kerry Washington was a bit of a disappointment to watch as Django’s baby girl, Broomhilda Von Shaft (trust me, see the movie and you’ll understand), not just because she isn’t featured in the movie a lot, but mainly because she doesn’t have as much of a screen-presence as everybody else in this flick seems to have. And that’s especially weird to have coming out of my fingertips, considering this is a QT movie and the guy always has kick-ass, female characters to show off. Don’t get me wrong, Washington is still good with her role but doesn’t really get much to do other than cry, yell, and looked terrified the whole-time. There’s so many more faces and stars in this cast that are worth mentioning and bringing to your attention but seriously, just go see the movie for yourself and realize that Tarantino is not only perfect when it comes to writing and directing, but also casting. The guy’s just got it all and all of these rumors of a possible, early-retirement has me scared shitless. Oh well, let’s just hope he keeps on churning out movies until he can’t no mo.
Consensus: Some trimming of the fat needed to be done here and there with Django Unchained, but for a movie that is 2 hours and 40 minutes and is never, for a second, ever boring or uninteresting, I have to say that’s pretty damn a-okay with me, especially if it’s a Tarantino movie, where fun, violence, comedy, cheekiness, homages, and pop-culture references all come together, in one beautiful, original blender of ideas.
Merry Christmas to all! Enjoy it and enjoy the presents you may or may not get from Santa!