Sunday, March 24, 2013

Django Unchained


Quentin Tarantino, by now, will be synonymous with taking genres and giving them his unique spin that blends pop and cinematic culture with vulgarity laced dialogue and plenty of blood spurting action. It's almost as if he started out wanting to pay homage to his favourite genres, only to find himself adding a new and separate dimension to those films with his trademark signature style. And with each film he now commands bigger and better known stars to draw crowds to the Tarantino-verse that seemed to bear no limits, as the writer-director-part-time-actor had now gone on to pick up his second screenplay Oscar in recognition of his writing.

But Django Unchained would probably be his most straight-forward narrative yet, without genre-bending nor adapting vastly different styles in his film, playing it very straight and to the point. In his earlier films, his most engaging scenes tend to be the ones that is dialogue or monologue laden, where characters banter incessantly, and most times irreverently to what is the situation at hand, and this not only draws plenty of attention, but are extremely engaging to sit through. countless of gems have been introduced in this fashion, which sadly this one didn't have many of. That's not to say that it's notches down, but is an element that's sorely missed.

While many will go on about how violent the gun-play in Django Unchained is with its bucketloads of exaggerated blood spills and splashes, and over the top gun wounds when lead rips apart flesh and bone, what made this close to three hour film work, lies in the characterization, especially with many playing against type. And it doesn't hurt to have Christoph Waltz in your corner as well, and making an entrance that's as chilling as that in his debut Tarantino work Inglourious Basterds. Here, Waltz plays Dr. King Schultz, a dentist turned bounty hunter, and a damn effective one at that, with his surprises and relentless ability to smell out opportunities. He plays mentor of sorts to Jamie Foxx's Django, a slave whom Schultz set free, and partners with, much to the chagrin of the Southern community at large, to go after a slew of wanted men, raking in the cash as well as getting closer to Django's sole objective at this point, to rescue his wife Broomhilda von Schaft (Kerry Washington) from the clutches of the egomaniac Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

The plot's easy to follow given Django's prime objective, that's paved with bounty hunter adventures through set action pieces, and comedic moments, such as Tarantino's making fun of the early version of the Ku Klux Klan, and the plenty of cameos such as Jonah Hill, and Franco Nero of the original Django fame, amongst others. These action sequences are effectively done to a perfect blend of blood, gore, and comedy rolled together. There's no question that these are elements that gone honed over the years from Reservoir Dogs right down to this film, with the filmmaker being unapologetic with his defined style, and being very comfortable with it. Those stand offs in the film are probably the best that Tarantino had tackled, and are well worth the price of an admission ticket. The writing continues to be impeccable as Tarantino develops his scenes and how his characters interact with one another, making each episode incredibly engaging and filled with high tension, especially from the last act when everything comes together in a volatile melting pot.

While Jamie Foxx makes an excellent Django with the silent D in his fish out of water ways who discovers he's a crack shot, it's quite clear that Leonardo DiCaprio stole the latter half of the film with his rare villanous turn as the Southern plantation owner who couldn't care less of his slaves, enjoying the high life with that sadistic streak of always wanting to win. Samuel L. Jackson was also a delight, being probably the only actor to date to have worked in the most number of Tarantino films, to stamp his presence as Candie's trusted man servant who at times seem to call the most shots. It's L. Jackson like we've probably never seen him before, and in a role that's on par with some of the best he had played throughout his career thus far, with unbelievable dialogue being spit out from his mouth, and sharing some excellent moments opposite DiCaprio.

Some may have lambasted Tarantino about how racist this film is, but after sitting through it, you can't help but feel they're a little jealous in not having been there first. A solid story, a great cast, and plenty of stuff to engage a variety of audience demographics make Django Unchained probably the most accessible Quentin Tarantino film to date, and I'd highly recommend it for what it achieved, a tribute to chop-slock entertainment that continues in the same vein as his grindhouse features.

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