Quentin Tarantino’s latest revenge movie comes hot on the heels of his last success Inglourious Basterds. Just in case you’re worried about spoilers, I will treat the plot summary, er, summarily. We follow the blood-spattered antics of ex-slave Django (Jamie Foxx, Collateral) and bounty hunter Dr Schultz (Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds) as they search for Django’s missing bride, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington, The Last King of Scotland), in antebellum America. It all gets very violent and Django gets to kill a lot of white guys, which he enjoys intensely.
Django is played wickedly by Jamie Foxx, and Waltz’s Dr Schultz was brilliantly played and hilarious to boot, in a similar way to his Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds.
If there is one man with good taste in scripts it is Samuel L Jackson (Pulp Fiction), who makes Steven (the Uncle Tom of the movie) his own. Even Leonardo diCaprio (Inception), for whom the role of effete-but-nuts slaveholder Calvin Candie might have turned out to be terribly miscast, did a reasonably good job. Nothing special really, but surprisingly passable. In fact, my only issue with the casting was the insanely ill-advised cameo by Tarantino himself (with a shocking Australian accent).
Maybe it was the constant flashbacks and flash-forwards that interrupted the direction of the film or it could have been the nerdy nods to any number of other genre films. Perhaps it was the constant displays of 8-foot blood spray that shook the continuity of cinematography, but despite its originality, the film never quite flies as high as the hype would suggest (which is pretty damn high).
It can be hard to touch Quentin Tarantino. His first two films (Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction) were so original and brilliant that he has become something of an untouchable demi-god of film. I am myself a great fan of those very films. Since those classics I have not seen one of his movies which, while enjoyable, was ever entirely satisfying. Original? Certainly. Lush? Definitely. But they never quite seemed to cohere in the magical way his first two did. Nevertheless, he has received consistent commercial and critical success which I’m sure he deserves.
Still, I reckon it could be time to take a more realistic look at his films now. As it has been noted negatively elsewhere, this is his first film without his late editor Sally Menke who died in 2010 and they were very close, but I don’t buy that – Django Unchained is every bit as good as Inglourious basterds, which she did work on.
The genre-busting nature of his early work has turned into plain old genre work which is fine and good – excellent, even. But it is what it is. The controversy around the issues in his films is pretty lame, seeing as they are practically fantasy movies. If you are a fan of his movies, then there is no doubt you will enjoy Django Unchained, as I did. If you couldn’t care less who directed it, you’ll love it. If, on the other hand, you are beginning to feel a bit uninspired by Tarantino, then you won’t be doing yourself a disservice by not bothering with this one.