Monday, July 15, 2013

Django Unchained (2012)

So I borrowed a friend's DVD and finally got to watch Django Unchained, which came out at the end of last year. It's basically Quentin Tarantino doing a blaxploitation western (southern?). It's very much in the recent vein (of which Tarantino is a leading proponent, along with Robert Rodriguez - see Planet Terror, Death Proof, Machete, etc.) of homages to the classic era of grindhouse cinema. Also, in the same way that Kill Bill was Tarantino's take on the martial arts flick, this movie in some ways recalls the genre of "spaghetti" (Italian) western films, of which it draws much inspiration (the original "Django" - which spawned innumerable unofficial sequels - was one such film).

Django Unchained is a bit of a slow burner, with a runtime approaching three hours. But it's infected with Quentin Tarantino's signature style of humor and social commentary, which keeps you immersed, until it builds to its satisfying climax, which is unashamedly awash in Tarantino's typical brand of ultraviolence.

It's not only fun and exciting, but also racially rewarding, as although the film is populated largely with racist characters (the story takes place two years before the civil war), vengeance is ultimately exacted upon the racist characters by the badass black hero - Django himself - and there exists at least one black villain and at least one white hero, to avoid over-generalizing racial stereotypes.

As for the premise (for those of you who are curious as to what this movie is actually about), the story follows a German immigrant (the quirky and polite Dr. King Schultz, played by Christoph Waltz) who is employed in the U.S. as a bounty hunter. He tracks down and frees a slave by the name of Django (an intimidating Jamie Foxx) to help him I.D. one of his targets, and the two become unlikely but amiable partners.

Eventually, in search of Django's wife, the pair come up against a sadistically enterprising plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio's Monsieur Candie), aided by his head house slave (an idiosyncratic performance by Samuel L. Jackson). Our heroes concoct a dangerous ruse that involves feigning an interest in Mandingo-fighting (think cock-fighting but with human beings), and march right into the belly of the beast: a plantation deceptively named Candie Land.

The resulting suspense and inevitable standoff is nothing short of cinematic fireworks, and I recommend you see it for yourself.

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