Derek Winnert

Django Unchained ***** (2012, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio) – Movie Review

Django Unchained

Gleefully borrowing old video-store ideas left right and centre, Quentin Tarantino extravagantly pays, er, homage to the spaghetti Western in his incredibly lusty, spectacular revenge saga of a strangely kindly German bounty hunter, an ex-dentist named Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), rescuing and freeing a black slave called Django (Jamie Foxx) and joining forces to rescue and free Foxx’s wife (Kerry Washington) from the clutches of evil, racist Southern ‘gentleman’ Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

A near-three-hour movie plot in one little sentence. Not bad you say. Thank you, say I.


As Blazing Saddles meets The Good the Bad and the Ugly, the resulting mix of sly humour and vicious violence ends up being uniquely QT, and he seems to be having a shedload of wicked fun with it. And that’s totally great – so do we. The first hour or so goes off like a rocket and runs like a vintage Rolls-Royce, with Inglourious Basterds’ Waltz on dazzling form, commanding, funny and worldlywise and Don Johnson scalding the screen too as a Ku Klux Klan type Big Daddy.


But then everything tends to get a bit bogged down in all the chit chitty-chat in DiCaprio’s Southern mansion, with the simple plot reiterated at least five times. OK, Quenty, we got it the first time. Yet, though it swerves and teeters in mid-section, it manages to keep on the rails, and steams along again to pitch up for a highly satisfying, typically full-blooded Tarantino climax.

Samuel L Jackson’s ancient retainer, as vicious and racist as his master DiCaprio (but cleverer), livens things up tremendously, compensating for a surprisingly clumsy Leo turn. Though to be fair, it’s QT’s fault for making this character so one-dimensional and miscasting Leo, who seems as lost as a small boy in a big man’s movie.


The film looks astounding, the music’s great, there’s a fantastic roll call of actors from the 60s and 70s (including the original Django, Franco Nero) and QT’s deliciously eccentric script isn’t at all bad – unlike his acting turn as an Aussie drifter, (I think it’s Aussie he’s doing, but you tell me) proving director’s cameos shouldn’t include speaking any lines: see Hitchcock. Wasn’t it a fact that QT made movies in the first place because he was a rotten actor?


Though too long, too talky, too slow, probably too violent and cynical (I know, I know, it’s Tarantino, what do you expect?), this is still a surprisingly likeable, exceptionally stylish and thoroughly enjoyable movie, recommended to all Western and Tarantino fans, but then they knew that already anyway.

Waltz and Tarantino won deserved Oscars, Golden Globes and Baftas for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay, and it was voted the AFI Movie of the Year.

© Derek Winnert 2013 Classic Movie Review 2397

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