Movie Review: 'Django Unchained' -- 3.5 stars
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson
Opens Dec. 25
Quentin Tarantino continues his historical revisionism after "Inglorious Basterds," diverting his genre-busting attention from World War II to the Antebellum South. It's an inspired move and, when it comes to sheer entertainment value, "Django Unchained" is right up there with QT's best.
That's not to suggest it's as revolutionary as "Pulp Fiction" or as packed with visceral rage as the "Kill Bill" movies. But "Django" gives us vintage Tarantino, a pastiche of Western, blaxploitation and Civil War-era movie tropes that's packed with his characteristically rich dialogue. The film delivers both as a tribute to a diverse cinematic lineage and as a stand-alone revenge story.
Jamie Foxx stars as Django, a slave freed by bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) so that he can help the German immigrant hunt down slave drivers. Thus begins an odyssey across the South, which turns into a quest to rescue Django's wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from the clutches of plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the lavish nightmare that is his Candie Land.
Tarantino is probably the most film-literate director working in Hollywood, drawing on the extensive knowledge he gained during his fabled stint as a video store clerk to produce movies that directly quote past flicks in original ways.
In "Django," spaghetti Western conventions are repurposed in the story of a tough black man avenging injustice perpetrated by an over-the-top white villain, righting a profound historical wrong against an outsized pre-Civil War terrain.
Film scholars could dissect this movie and point out specific shots and storytelling techniques that Tarantino lifts directly from the past. Some have argued that the filmmaker makes movies that have more to do with other movies than anything truthful or real. Those critics aren't wrong.
But, really, who cares? With dialogue that flows like a pristine river, the return of Waltz ("Basterds") - who has mastered the tone of QT's complicated words better than any other actor - rich filmic images and a story that's satisfying, it wouldn't matter if "Django Unchained" amounted to flat-out plagiarism.