By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
Review-ish: Django Unchained
I don’t think I have a ton to add to the conversation about Django Unchained.
It is not a special film. It feels a lot like Tarantino playing out a contract. (No, there is no contract to which I am referring.) Or maybe someone with some real talent, but with no real ambition beyond imitating Tarantino.
It has laughs. It has a ton of violence. It has well over 100 uses of the word “nigger.”
I’d sit through it again and not suffer. But if I don’t, I don’t think I’ll be missing anything of note.
But for me, it was missing the curve ball that makes Tarantino interesting, even in his lesser works. It’s a 2 or 3 joke film. And those jokes repeat over and over and over again. Most of the audience seemed fine with that. I found myself oddly bored in a film that is so relentlessly in the audience’s face… perhaps the most aggressive piece Tarantino has ever made, even more so than the Kill Bills.
The tech side is excellent. No complaints. Robert Richardson is still a master. Acting performances are also uniformly strong. But I preferred the character Chris Waltz plays the first time I saw Robert Culp & Bill Cosby doing that schtick on “I Spy.”
The only exceptional element in this film, for me, was Samuel L. Jackson who is transformed into Uncle Ben – I mean, right off that old box – to the point where his head seems to be another shape. And he balances attitude and rage and a surface calm in the one thing in this film that seriously deserves Oscar consideration.
For a movie I didn’t love (and certainly didn’t hate), I didn’t mind the looooong running time. But the film lives on a hamster wheel of repetition that I wish someone had been able to get Tarantino to cut down. And really, I wish there was a point. Comparisons to Inglorious Basterds make no sense to me, as there were a load of interesting, subversive ideas in Inglorious Basterds. I can’t think of a single one in this film. And a love story? It’s a long story like Eraser is a love story.
I look at the trailer and TV spots and I see what this film was meant to be… good, fun, mostly brainless pulp. But it hangs around so long that the failure of QT to find anything to say becomes all too apparent.
I could pick the thing apart, but that would be silly. It’s not that kind of movie. Either you get on the ride and give yourself to it or not. That doesn’t mean that the film has no responsibility to entertain, but it does try. It literal pulls down its pants… or Jamie Foxx’s… and like so much in the film, it leads nowhere… except for a cool moment out of context.
This is the first Tarantino film that could have been made by Robert Rodriguez. Good or bad. You make that call.