Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film Django Unchained is quite simply off the chain if you pardon the pun!
A brutal, bloody, terrifying, hilarious and breathtaking film inspired by both the Django spaghetti western series starring Franco Nero (who makes a cameo) and Richard Fleischer’s 1975 exploitation flick Mandingo, about a slave trained to fight other slaves.
Set two years before the Civil War, the film stars Christoph Waltz as German bounty hunter Dr King Schultz, who frees Jamie Foxx’s slave character Django in return for his help in tracking down three outlaw brothers.
Along the way, Django proves to have something of a knack for bounty hunting, so he trains under Schultz and the pair become both friends and partners.
And when Django learns that his wife Broomhilda (the beautiful Kerry Washington) is a slave on a plantation belonging to sadistic owner Calvin Candie (played brilliantly by Leonardo DiCaprio), he and Schultz set out to rescue her, posing as fight experts interested in Candie’s Mandingo ring.
Just like Tarantino’s previous film Inglourious Basterds, Waltz’s Germanic delivery and measured manner steals every scene thanks to his terrific performance as Schultz that makes it so much fun to enjoy.
Equally impressive is DiCaprio, who seems to be enjoying the role of being a spiteful, pipe smoking bully. His performance is both awe-inspiring and yet terrifying. The scene at the dinner table while delivering the classic QT monologue is pure masterclass.
Making his sixth appearance in a Tarantino film is the superb Samuel L. Jackson as the head house-slave Stephen. Although it comes to a bit of a shock in how many times he says the “N” word…
To be honest, Django Unchained is not a film for the squeamish. As it features over-the-top violence including the gunfight sequence involving explosively splattering of blood.
And yet the script makes it so enjoyable to watch with great lines packed full of surprises with moments that will have you laughing out loud and gasping in shock, often simultaneously.
So a great film overall? Well, I have to admit there are some weak parts in Django Unchained and ironically this falls to Jamie Foxx.
The actor has the physical presence, that is undeniable, and as Django he certainly looks the part. Yet he never feels entirely right, as the gritty, gun-slinging hero or rather, sounds right.
Foxx is gifted with a soft, musical voice, but it jars against Django’s terse deliveries. “I like the way you die, boy,” should sound menacing and yet from Foxx, it lacks impact.
The other big problem is the running time, at 168 minutes the film is just too damn long and the middle segment drags considerably. In addition, Kerry Washington‘s part is badly underwritten (less than ten lines!), so there’s no chemistry at all between her and Foxx.
While Tarantino’s time-honoured atrocious cameo (as an Australian mining company employee) is so out of place and seriously undermines the final act of the film.
Despite these flaws, Django Unchained is a stylishly directed, superbly written and brilliantly acted spaghetti western pastiche that delivers shocks, laughs and thrills in equal measure. The soundtrack is also great too. Tarantino is back to his best!