Sunday, December 23, 2012

Movie Review: 'Django' Chained to Excessive Violence, Lack of QT Style

Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" is the bloody follow up to his critically and commercially acclaimed Nazi-hunting "Inglourious Basterds," and man, what a let down of a follow-up this film is.
With his past three, when you include 2007's "Death Proof," efforts inspired by earlier, low-budget films, "Django" shows that Tarantino is losing his flare for completely original content.

Set free from the chains that bound him, Django (Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx) works with dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz ('Inglourious' Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz), to hunt down the Brittle brothers, men only Django has seen before. In return, King offers Django his freedom from slavery and the opportunity to rescue his wife Broomhilda, who is enslaved in a place called Candyland, run by infamous plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

At first it seems like finding the Brittle brothers will be the whole of the movie, but it only takes up about an hour of the 2hr. 45min. running time. The rest of the time is spent sweet-talking Calvin and trying to get Broomhilda away from his grip, followed by an overly long epilogue.

His longest feature to date, Tarantino fills the time with his trademark banter that borrows Waltz's devilish charm from "Inglourious" with unforgivable use of 19th century Southern speak. Sitting with an audience that was predominately white, almost every comical use of the 'nigger' caused laughter which makes me believe the masses are uncomfortable with the term and laugh to make it more palatable.

There were a few times I didn't understand what the script was doing. At one scene I'm laughing at the incompetence of the first unofficial KKK gathering, then I'm dozing off after watching nothing but people talking for 30 minutes straight. At least with his groundbreaking "Pulp Fiction" and "Death Proof" there was interesting conversation that never got boring and kept the flow of the story going. Tarantino has an ear for great dialogue, but I think he is starting to lose his touch for interesting dialogue.

Where Tarantino falls in script, he makes up for in violence... and a lot of it. Back in the day most, if not all, of the violence in his movies were off screen, but after the bloodbath in "Kill Bill Vol. 1" he isn't afraid to make it the highlight of his films, and why? An overly stylized shootout with blood splashing everywhere and people being blown apart is not the Tarantino I know. The aftermath of a violent act is what used drove the plot of his movies forward, but now he shows it all as if he's trying to direct the latest torture porn flick. He shows it to show it, but it doesn't have any meaning in this film. Maybe with each bullet that Django and King fire represents the over 200 years of guilt/anger the country has sat in regarding slavery. Needless to say, these two really stick it to the man.

Waltz and Foxx are good in this film, but the showstoppers are DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson, who plays the slaved assistant to DiCaprio. For the first time ever I was truly amazed by DiCarpio. I've always seen him as the wannabe actor trying to play with the big boys, but this time he has truly proved to be one of the Hollywood big boys. In a role that is charismatic and downright brutal, DiCaprio turns his bitch switch on and off in a millisecond and will shake you to the core. This is his darkest and most award-worthy performance yet.

But Jackson also gives a great performance, perhaps even better than DiCaprio's. Loyal to his master and at times even controlling his master, Jackson's performance as Stephen shows how the biggest black badass in the movie is a slave and not a free man like Django. Stephen is the smartest man in any room he enters, knowing how to size people up and find faults in their logic. From the moment he walks on screen we're already laughing at anything he says, but by the end we are terrified of his ruthless attitude and his dark eyes that will pierce your soul.

Taking a page from the last installment from the LOTR trilogy, when you think the film should/will end, it doesn't. It keeps going, and going, and going. I didn't think it was necessary for the story to be slowly pulled out that way, but I'm guessing Tarantino was wondering how he could write himself into a really weird cameo. In the end (the real end), it all served as satisfying revenge to Django's story.

"Django" is definitely not Tarantino's best. There have been rumors going around that he will quit film making, and I think now is the time to stop. He has lost his original flare by picking up has been B-movies and writing new dialogue for it. Gone are the days where he looked to genres for inspiration and then blowing us out of that water. Now he's just dipping an old sponge in water and ringing out the moldy remains.

Rating: C-

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