Before I start this review, I reckon it’s worth highlighting that I am far from a sold up, Kool-Aid drinking member of the Tarantino cult. Yes, I thought Pulp Fiction was genius, but sadly its a height that he hasn’t really scaled since. It was Kill Bill which broke the illusion for me — a tiresomely long two-film epic, desperately light on plot and looking like a four hour masturbatory fight scene.
But, I am delighted to say that Django Unchained has me convinced once again.
The film follows title character Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave who after being bought and freed by dentist-turned-bounty-hunter Dr King Schultz (Chistopher Walz) becomes a bounty hunter himself in order to find his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). That quest leads the bounty hunters to Broomhilda’s owner Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) in a typically Tarantino-style violent encounter.
I know, it sounds completely bananas. But it works, beautifully, largely due to top quality acting. Leonardo DiCaprio is someone whose acting talent I have felt has been waiting for an opportunity to bloom. I have high hopes that his title role in The Great Gatsby later this year will see such a blooming, and they’ve only been increased in the light of Django.
Samuel L. Jackson’s turn as Candie’s house slave was also an excellent performance. Variously sympathetic and detestable, it was another performance to really use all of his talent and abilities. And not a single motherf**king snake was seen.
It was definitely a violent film; gunfights slick with blood, and a key plot point revolving around gladiator-style slave deathmatches. That said, there wasn’t really any sense of glorification, and it seemed to portray the grittiness of the times without letting it weigh too heavily on the story.
I really can’t find a fault with it. It was fun, engaging, and a pleasure to watch. If Tarantino did more of this and less self-indulgent nonsense, I could see myself joining his legion of adoring fans. The interesting thing will be seeing how it stands up against Lincoln in dealing with broadly similar themes from a (hopefully) different perspective.
But I would definitely recommend Django Unchained. It reminded me that film can be serious and entirely entertaining at the same time.