From A to Zowie reviews ‘Django Unchained’
If this review seems late, it’s because I rarely have the time to go to the theater to watch first-run movies and since I’m not a “professional film critic”, I don’t get free passes.
Django centers around Django, a slave (Jamie Foxx) who in Texas in 1858 is freed by a German dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz, who is actually Austrian) for the purpose of helping Dr. Schultz locate three men. These men have a connection to Django’s wife, so the bounty hunter becomes a partner with Django to not only collect the bounty, but also to free Django’s wife.
Lots of shooting, including graphic sprays of blood, flesh and tissue, and a prolific use of the N-word. Unfortunately, as historians will tell us, in the American South in 19th century America, the N-word was very commonly used. Sometimes as a way to refer to African-Americans and also as a very derogatory term. I suspect that even without the comic book-style, over-the-top blood and gore that tends to be a staple of Tarantino films, the movie could’ve received an R rating alone for the N-word and other profanities.
The movie also has another unsettling truth about antebellum Southern America. Slave owners would amuse themselves by pitting muscular slaves in a fight to the death. I suppose the strongest was rewarded with the opportunity to mate with any women he wanted for the purpose of producing strong slave offspring.
If you don’t want spoilers, don’t read any further in this paragraph: Django gets his wife back but it comes at the expense of Dr. Schultz’ death. Quentin Tarantino makes a brief cameo and then Django, to ensure he and his wife are able to escape, blows up the plantation of the recently-murdered plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
What I liked about Django: It featured bit roles by a few actors I have soft spots for, including Don Johnson as Big Daddy and M.C. Gainey as Big John Brittle. Gainey, a Mississippi native, was a fitting casting choice. Johnson showed that while his career has cooled considerably since his Miami Vice days, he is indeed a brilliant actor. And, yes, so is DiCaprio.
Waltz again was wonderful as a character who is so charming you forget how cunning and dangerous he can be.
And, yes, I thought the scene where the KKK struggle to put on their masks was. Absolutely. HILARIOUS!!!
Samuel L. Jackson goes very much against type as the head house slave. Seeing him subservient to whites in a convincing way really showed how great an actor he is. And, yes, he even gets to drop his favorite profane line in the movie.
What I did not like about Django: A few times, a man gets shot right in the groin. Ugh. I hate seeing that. America has probably become desensitized to this due to all the stupid America’s Funniest Videos of men getting nailed in their happy spot, but for me it’s something I care not to see.
I can’t quite describe it, but this movie just didn’t flow with the excitement of Kill Bill or Inglourious Basterds. With those movies, I could not wait to see what happened next. With Django, I didn’t have a strong, itching desire to watch the movie in one setting.
The movie goes down as not my favorite QT film, but I don’t get Lee’s criticism. He finds it disrespectful of African-Americans during their time of slavery. Well, in the movie the antagonists are the slave owners, and many of them and their henchmen meet their doom in gory ways. Not to mention, according to his time on the show Who Do You Think You Are?, Lee actually has a white slave owner ancestor. Perhaps Lee just found the underlying dark humor distasteful.
Overall, I offer two thoughts.
One, Django Unchained wasn’t too bad a film. Not one I will add into my DVD library someday, but a decent film nonetheless.
Two, Spike Lee is jealous with Tarantino because Lee’s star is declining in Hollywood. Anyone care to guess the last time Lee directed a movie that actually made money? Back around 2001, after reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X, I rented Lee’s movie about X and stopped after half an hour. Too much disjointed storytelling made for an unwatchable film.
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