johnlink ranks DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)

I’m thinking of a new slogan. Something along the lines of “JohnLink Movies! Your one stop shop for movies everybody else watched over a year ago!” Maybe it won’t sell. But it would be honest anyway. I’m not sure why it took me so long to finally see DJANGO, but I’m finally back to a place in my life where I have seen all of the Tarantino films.


I watched DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) on 9.13.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

The first act of Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED, up to the point where Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and former slave Django (Jamie Foxx) finish their first job together, is probably the best and most complete first act of any Tarantino film. The action is exceptional, the humor is sharp, the scenarios seem to put the heroes in a place they can’t escape from, and then they do. In terms of character creation and storytelling, this is art.

While this is a film about Django’s ‘coming of age’ as a bounty hunter under the tutelage of Schultz, it wants to also be a story of a noble husband going to get his enslaved wife (Kerry Washington). While the movie takes its time getting to Candie, we see Django’s wife Broomhilda several times through the common devices of flashback and hallucination.

As the film moves through its second act, it is surprisingly bogged down by a story which introduces a villain too late and asks him to leave tooearly. Though Leonardo DiCaprio’s evil Calvin Candie is one of the finest performances of an increasingly impressive career, this is a movie which somehow does better when there is not a big bad in the picture. He’s necessary in terms of character in the sense that Django must learn to be a bad ass, but the movie also devolves into some exploitative territory in an effort to prove Candie so terrible a human.

Django Unchained

Much was made of this movie and its perceived levels of racism. It walks a line between being about a heroic black man and being about showing black people in terrible predicaments. The low level of education of the slaves in this film may not be an inaccurate portrayal of certain people of its time, but the movie also doesn’t care to qualify its characterizations. That the film punishes its bad guys is a saving grace, though there could be an argument that Tarantino has reached a point in his career where he is just using archetypes of major villains (ie, Nazis or Slave Owners) as an excuse to show extreme levels of violence without worrying about empathy of the victims of violence (be they the innocent or the bad guys).

While this is not a terrible choice, and it serves as effective in DJANGO, it does feel as though the more nuanced or complex layers of violence from early films like RESERVOIR DOGS or PULP FICTION have been replaced by a filmmaker who is just looking for an excuse to spray blood everywhere. When Marvin meets his end in the final act of PULP FICTION there is surprise and meaning and consequence. When a slave owner at the opening of DJANGO gets his head blown off, it is pure spectacle.

But to criticize the violence too hard would be to miss the point that Tarantino has put together an impressive homage to the spaghetti western. He brought in Ennio Morricone to do some music and wrote a scene which would allow the original Django (Franco Nero) to sit down with the new Django and share some lines. Tarantino’s old friend Robert Rodriguez paid a ton of homage to Django with his 90s film DESPERADO (the guns in the guitar case bit was straight out of the first DJANGO film) and Tarantino is less subtle with his nods. Yet none of these things cheapen the experience because Tarantino is so in love with the genre. If there is one misstep it may be in the way music plays over the film more than it plays under, but Tarantino has never been shy when it comes to making a scene be about the music. Perhaps it is just an odd choice to do so in a western.

This is another good movie by Tarantino. It may not be the pure filmmaking genius of PULP FICTION, sadly DJANGO UNCHAINED is a little too cute in its allusions to be so. It is, however, maybe Tarantino’s best looking film, eclipsing the visual bang of KILL BILL. Additionally, this may be the coolest movie Tarantino has made since the 90s. And that is saying something, since his films are never short on cool.




FINAL SCORE: 7.75 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on September 14, 2014.

3 Responses to “johnlink ranks DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)”

  1. This movie never gets old for me. No matter how many times I see it. Which is, trust me, a whole lot. Good review John.

  2. The movie is great.
    the only problem is that the Christoph Waltz play a very similar role as in inglorious bastards.
    The movie is in my list of best movies of 2012

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