The Quick Summary: Listen to a Rick Ross album (sober), then play Modern Warfare, and smoke some Marlboro Reds. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Django Unchained ladies and gentleman. Wait this makes it sound awesome.
Somewhere, inside of a strip club in Tampa, Florida, Quentin Tarantino is finishing a bottle of Jack, getting a lap dance (from a Black stripper?) and laughing out loud as he yells to the deejay, “Yea, play that NPR interview again and again and again.”
A Spaghetti Western. An entertaining one at that but that is where my praise ends and honestly, it is where most peoples’ lauding should as well. Somehow, only God or those aliens in outer space could speculate as to why this simplistic, unintelligent, drawn out, unsophisticated movie (oh right, a Spaghetti Western) has been garnering academic and philosophical discussions. In fact, that may be the funniest thing about this movie (the KKK scene is stupid and feels like a joke your drunk uncle wont stop telling).
This is NOT a premeditated thoughtful screenplay on the social construct of race, the history of slavery, the dynamic of the use of the n-word OR a commentary on Black/White relations in today’s world. Yet the publicity is trying to drive this point home and is succeeding. Perhaps I am missing the genius behind this film or maybe it came and went as fast as Django shoots his Peacemaker. Nonetheless, I struggle to give QT any credit beyond his homage to a Spaghetti Western.
I typically look for those classic monologues to make me think or his themes that provoke discussion or his characters that ask to be looked at beyond one dimension. I found nothing of the sort.
I am not sure if this film was never cut but at one point, when a man was torn apart by dogs I almost envied him. The plot had no twists (like in Pulp Fiction), had no amazing choreographed fight scenes (like Kill Bill), lacked any witty dialogue (like Reservoir Dogs) and failed to be multidimensional (like True Romance). I watched this movie fall apart just as quickly as Django was…(yup) unchained.
Django is chasing his wife and killing anyone in his way (that’s it), Dr. Schultz is killing people for money (that’s it) and Mr. Candie is nothing more than a cliché plantation owner (that’s. it.).
We open with a classic homage to a Spaghetti Western, with a Quentin twist, of slaves wandering through the terrain to the tune of a pretty cool Spanish song (don’t worry you get to hear modern, and some of the most ignorant, rap along the way). I was into it. Jamie Foxx (he’s Django by the way) is quiet, mysterious and almost intriguing when we first set eyes on him. We wonder who he is and why we he will be our protagonist. Okay, I can dig this. Cristoph Waltz’s character (Dr. Schultz) enters the screen and is witty but basically Col. Hans as a good guy. He delivers his lines as awesomely as he does in Inglorious. No problems here. The plot begins to build as Dr. Schultz and Django set off to murder the slave masters who enslaved Django and separated him from his wife. This is where the movie builds. I am still awake. Django gets some slick threads, Dr. Schultz agrees to share his bounty with him if they can find the targets and off they go. I thought this was the end goal, the driving force, the revenge I hope Django gets in the end. 30 minutes into the movie and they reach their targets, murder them and ride off. Repeat, repeat, repeat but just with other senseless characters. Oh, and they also have to search for Keri Washington (Django’s wife) who has as many lines as the young Black child in Scrooged.
Maybe it’s me but I was hoping that subplots would build as we find out more about Dr. Schultz and maybe he even has ulterior motives or a past of being involved with slave masters. Perhaps there is slave uprising somewhere else and a parallel plot arises. Something, somewhere, anywhere? No, the movie drags on for another 2 hours and nothing of any significance happens (I mean aside from everyone dying because, they’re supposed to all die?).
I am pained as I write this because Quentin is one of my favorite writers/directors and it hurts, in my heart, because I want to like it or at least give it credit for all of the positive and negative press. Unfortunately, I (along with many other people I spoke to) wanted to walk out after half an hour.
Yes, some of you have already watched and are saying, “Aaron, it’s entertaining so just enjoy a movie” and I say back, “I agree, however, it is nothing more than a jacked up action film that enjoys gratuitous violence and an overindulgence of the “n-word.” Done. Period. Goodnight. Next. Rent any Charles Bronson film and have NWA in the background.
RECOMMENDATION: Serve the popcorn but save the butter. I find little reason to see it, I find even less reasons to philosophically dissect this film and as for a film, it’s a great dinner party conversation and will probably help you feel accepted in groups of people at random social events.