EW Movie Review: "Django Unchained"
Writer/director Quentin Tarantino's latest film is a slavery revenge fantasy called "Django Unchained". Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following review.
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It would now be a surprise if a new Quentin Tarantino movie didn't dip into the well of '70s grindhouse cinema.
"Django Unchained" is Tarantino’s deliriously kicky and shameless, and also overly long and scattershot, racial exploitation epic. It’s set in the slave days, and among other things, it's a low-down orgy of flamboyant cruelty and violence, including the most promiscuous use of the N-word ever heard in a mainstream movie. Is Django attacking the cruelty or reveling in it? Maybe both, and that's what gives the film's best parts their danger.
What's fun about Django, at least, when it is fun, is that it's also a liberal-hearted revenge Western, with a stoically commanding Jamie Foxx in the part of Django, a slave who is bought and freed by Dr. King Schultz, an abolitionist bounty hunter played by Christoph Waltz. Waltz, speaking in his German-from-Neptune accent, plays Schultz as a charismatic benevolent oddball, and he and Foxx make an irresistible buddy team.
Yet the film's first hour is a little basic. "Django Unchained" doesn't spike to full Tarantino fever until it gets inside the big house of Calvin Candie, a wily plantation owner played by Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio, having a blast, makes Candie the equivalent of Waltz's Nazi in "Inglourious Basterds": a racist villain who mesmerizes us by elevating his ideology into a puckishly thought-out vision of the world.
For all that, Django isn't nearly the film that Inglourious Basterds was. It's less clever, and it doesn't have enough major characters, or enough of Tarantino's trademark structural ingenuity, to earn its two hour, 45 minute running time. When Django, Candie, and the other characters are sitting around the plantation parlor trying to outwit each other, the film achieves that Tarantino hypnotic mood. But it only does so for a while. In the gaudy and incredibly bloody last 30 minutes - think over-the-top and beyond - the mood vanishes, and "Django Unchained" becomes an almost sadistically literal example of exploitation at its most unironic.