Movie Review - Django Unchained

Jamie Foxx as Django in
Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained"
Jamie Foxx stars as Django, a slave who is freed by Dr. King Schultz, played by Christoph Waltz. Schultz is a dentist-turned-bounty hunter who needs Django to identify three fugitives he's trying to kill. Schultz makes it clear that he abhors slavery and that he only kills bad guys. After getting the bad guys, Schultz helps Django find and free his wife Broomhilde, played by Kerry Washington. Broomhilde or Hilde is a slave under the ownership of Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Candie is a warped plantation-owner who also operates a Mandingo fighting ring in his house.

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, this movie clearly shows his love of spaghetti westerns, grindhouse films and blaxploitation flicks, all from the 1970s. I don't have a lot of love for those kinds of films, so I was perhaps predisposed not to like this movie. It is entertaining, more so for me than Inglorious Basterds (2010). It's funny. In fact, Django Unchained works more as a comedy than anything else.

The acting is all top notch with the exception of Foxx who is clearly the weak link here, which is unfortunate given he's the main character. I can't really blame Foxx. Tarantino doesn't give Foxx much to do. Even in the scene when Django reunites with his wife, Foxx is hidden for most of it and when he does appear, he only has one line and then end of scene. In a near three-hour film, Foxx is only given two good moments. Most times, he's silent and staring, pointing his gun at someone or rearing to draw his pistol.

The real meat goes to Waltz and DiCaprio who get tons of great moments and bits of dialogue, Waltz especially. Samuel L. Jackson who doesn't appear until a hour and a half into the film is given so much more to do than Foxx and with it Jackson creates a great character, one reminiscent of Aaron McGruder's Uncle Ruckus from The Boondocks, but still so deliciously rendered by Jackson.

Tarantino is a good writer. He comes up with things that are fun and outright hilarious, if not just outrageous. The bag-head scene, which looked like a Ku Klux Klan rally, had humor in it that was nothing short of brilliant. Candie teaching phrenology was also such. The line about Alexandre Dumas was clever in so many respects.

What killed this movie for me is simply that it's too long. There is a massive shootout toward the end, which is way over the top, but should have been the end. Yet, Tarantino drags things out for another half hour if only to indulge in more over-the-top violence that was needless.

Once Django is alone for this half hour, it becomes clear how much less Foxx is as an actor as compared to Waltz, DiCaprio and Jackson. His character may be a good gunslinger and a sharp shooter but other than that Django is not that interesting. Tarantino distracts with crazy violence. Tarantino is like Michael C. Hall's Dexter in that he loves blood splatter. He just piles gore on top of gore. He bathes his film in it. It gets to be too much and Tarantino over-stays his welcome.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for strong graphic violence, a vicious fight, language and some nudity.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 25 mins.


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