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DJANGO UNCHAINED (review)

Produced by Reginald Hudlin, Stacy Sher, Pilar Savone
Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, 
Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, 
Dennis Christopher, James Remar, Michael Parks, Don Johnson

Thank you again, Quentin Tarantino.

The director’s seventh film, Django Unchained, tells the story of a dentist-turned-bounty hunter who recruits a slave’s help in identifying his latest targets. The film is classic Tarantino: bloody, dark-humored and still incredibly uplifting.

Jamie Foxx plays the shy but knowledgeable slave, Django Freeman. From the first shots of his scarred back we are rooting for the success of his inevitable revenge. Foxx presents his character with a dry humor and passionate rage that resonates beautifully opposite his costars. Christoph Waltz is exquisite as Dr. King Schultz, the dentist/bounty hunter. He is not quite as malevolent as Col. Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds, as his targets are nowhere near innocent, but he is equally as suave and romantically lethal.

The chemistry between Dr. Schultz and Django is remarkable. Tarantino’s dialogue between the duo is some of his best to date.  The characters aren’t just discussing murder as they are educating one another.

Dr. Schultz mentors superior gun slinging and enhanced vocabulary, while Django offers a wiser understanding of racial and class perspectives. In effect, they become philosopher-warriors. Django’s intelligence expands throughout the film as he chooses his own loud outfits and takes on the role of an equal partner to a white man. Dr. Schulz’s view of bounty hunting shifts from a flesh-for-cash business to a righteous vendetta against malicious disgraces of humanity that deserve his heart-felt bullets.

Leonardo DiCaprio, as Calvin Candie, is the epitome of grotesque ignorance and power. Southern hospitality versus southern brutality, DiCaprio gives us both. His charming rotten-toothed grin is seductive at times even as he punishes his slaves. This ultimate white evil is perhaps only exceeded by the treacherous head-house-slave, Stephen, played by Samuel L. Jackson. While Candie can claim crude generational blindness, Stephen knowingly betrays members of his own race even when it carries no personal advantage.

Like all Tarantino films, music plays an important part.  Eschewing an original score, and rather combining instrumental film music from such composers such as the legendary Ennio Morricone and Luis Bacalov with more contemporary tracks from artists like Johnny Cash and the RZA, Django Unchained‘s soundtrack is truly bad-ass.  As always, the auteur’s penchant for violence is perforated with unexpected humor, making the film one of the more entertaining moviegoing experiences in recent memory.  With people being blown apart during the film’s most violent scenes, the unexpected audience reaction was that of mildly amused and hysterical laughter.

Quentin Tarantino marvelously executes another revenge story in Django Unchained. Everyone has a justifiable motive to kill, and everyone is at the mercy of any presumed hero or villain. Violence begets violence in a never-ending albeit entertaining cycle, culminating in a superbly funny, bloody conclusion. 

Kudos.

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