Django Unchained (2012)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 4/29/17
Written And Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Johnson, Walton Goggins, cameos by Jonah Hill, Quentin Tarantino, Zoë Bell, James Remar, Nichole Galicia, Franco Nero, Bruce Dern

A bounty hunter named Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz) frees a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) in exchange for helping him identify some criminals that he's hunting. Afterwards, Django trains to become a bounty hunter and works with Schultz to come up with a plan for rescuing his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from a notorious plantation owner named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). They almost get away with it until a sneaky slave played by Samuel L. Jackson discovers their plan and makes a mess of everything.

It's a beautifully filmed production with a top-notch cast and excellent performances. The action scenes are superb and feature some of the most outrageously explosive gunshot wounds ever captured on film. While many people may find the bloodiness a bit excessive, I was thrilled and thought it complemented the story quite well. It's not as absurd as the Japanese blood geysers of the 70's, but it's just a messy. In fact, it reminded me a lot of John Woo's work. Unfortunately, like most of Tarantino's films, it's overly long and the pacing suffers from his long-winded obsession with tedious and tiresome dialog. Two scenes in particular are totally unnecessary and completely derail the film, which is a shame. Even so, it's Tarantino's most accessible work to date due to the compelling story, gorgeous cinematography, and engaging characters.

Christoph Waltz gives a stellar performance as Dr. Schultz and Leonardo DiCaprio makes a cunning and despicable villain. Jamie Foxx performs admirably as Django, but lacks charisma. However, as an unstoppable force of nature driven by love and revenge, he's perfect. Like the spaghetti westerns that inspired it, "Django Unchained" is dirty, ugly, unpleasant, and lawless, and can be quite difficult to watch at times, but it's these atrocities that shape the characters and make us root for Django's journey towards divine retribution.

The soundtrack is an eclectic assortment of classic Italian movie scores by Ennio Morricone and Riz Ortolani, soul music, country music, folk music, and rap music. The inclusion of Jim Croce's "I Got A Name" is just as jarring and unsettling as the highly inappropriate rap music, and the disruptive music selections have the unfortunate side effect of disengaging you from the film. Overall it's an excellent and extremely well made film, as long as you can put up with Quentin Tarantino's eccentricities, flourishes, and conceits.