There are at least 3 things that you expect to get when you sit down to watch a Quentin Tarantino film and they are (in no order of importance) 1.) Colorful, “over the top” characters. 2.) Memorable character monologues. 3.) A LOT of brutally depicted violence. Think of your favorite QT movie, and you’ll see those three things are always there and Django Unchained is certainly has them as well.
The story takes place in the American south a few years before the civil war with Django Shaft (Yes, that’s his full name. Apparently, John Shaft got his badassery thru his genes) played by Jamie Foxx being freed by a German bounty hunter played by Christoph Waltz named Dr. King Schultz (Yes, that’s his full name too). Schultz frees Django,because he was on a plantation where his latest bounty, The Brittle Brothers were last seen.
Schultz (being foreign and detesting the slave trade) offers Django his freedom if he can successfully lead him to The Brittle Brothers since he’s never seen the brothers himself. In the process of helping Schultz locate and seize his bounty, Django reveals that he and his wife Broomhilda (yep, her real name too) played by Kerry Washington, were sold separately as punishment for attempting to run away.
Broomhilda’s original owner was German and taught the language to her in an effort to help him not forget his native tongue. After Dr. Schultz explains to Django the mythos surrounding the name Broomhilda, he tells him that he feels honor bound to help him get his wife back. Unfortunately for the duo, she’s been sold to plantation owner Calvin Candie played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
“Candieland” (Yes, you get it by now right? The names are outrageous) is notorious for its reputation for brutal treatment towards its slaves. Calvin makes his living on cotton, but his hobby is the “Mandingo fights” and Candieland is also a training ground for fighting slaves in the no holds barred battles to the death. Keeping in mind Calvin’s reputation and lust for bloodsport, Schultz devises a plan to legally acquire Broomhilda for Django.
At its essence Django is a spaghetti western, and like most good ones the concept of revenge is the key to making it work–and Tarantino gives you plenty of reasons to want to follow the hero down the very bloody path he must take.
DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie is delightfully evil but in actuality NOT the main villain. Sam Jackson’s character Steven is the real villain and his performance is AWESOME. Both sinister and hilarious as only Mr. Jackson can be. Jamie Foxx does a decent job as the movie’s lead but after watching the movie, I’m left wondering how this all would have looked if Will Smith had decided to take the roll as he was originally asked to play Django.
Sadly, I think Christoph Waltz’s character was underused. The last third of the movie does not have Dr. Schultz in it and I think the movie suffers as a result. Kerry Washington’s character is little more than just a pretty face with sad eyes for the audience to feel sorry about.
One thing that did stand out to me in Django was the great soundtrack! The movie uses music not of the period in perfect spots and aids in ramping you up for the outrageous action that takes place. I was also very happy to see that it included a James Brown/Tupac mix of the main theme.
Now like most of his films, Django Unchained is HORRIFICALLY violent, and when you mix that with the setting of the Deep South during the slave trade, you get more than a couple of uncomfortable scenes depicting brutality against slaves. If you have racial issues or are particularly sensitive about others views on the subject, then do yourself a favor and just wait for it on DVD and watch it in the privacy of your own home.
About 20 minutes or so into the showing, I heard a woman behind me say to someone she was with, “go ahead it’s okay, you can laugh”. I didn’t turn around to see who she was talking to, but my bet is that they were white and felt uncomfortable about laughing at a joke with the abuse of slaves as the punch line.
There is plenty of that kind of humor in this movie. The dialogue in Quentin Tarantino’s movies has always included crass humor centering on taboo subjects and Django is no different. With all of this being said, if you are familiar Tarantino’s movies then Django is a must see. Is it as profound as Inglorious Basterds or Pulp Fiction? No. Is it as iconic as Reservoir Dogs? No, but I would put it right there with Kill Bill I and II, for sure, and that’s not bad at all.