It’s always hard to put a Quentin Tarantino movie into a specific genre. You can probably define Django Unchained as a western. Plenty of gunslinging gunplay puts it as close to that as anything else.
Set in the deep South just before the Civil War, dentist and bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz — in a fun and creative way — frees the Negro slave Django. Freedom has a condition. Django knows and has to point out three very nasty slave traders and criminals so Schultz can kill them and collect the reward.
Django — it turns out — is a natural killing machine. The two team up and kill a bunch of bad guys. Django puts a condition on assisting with the bounty hunting business. Schultz has to help him free his wife from the clutches of rich slave owner Calvin Candle.
How that all comes about is the focus of Tarantino’s film.
Tarantino — as always — not only gets big name stars, but he coaxes great performances out of them. In this case Jamie Foxx does Django, Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz plays Schultz and Leonardo DiCaprio is Candle.
Waltz — who proved to be a brilliant in Inglourious Basterds but has pretty much sucked in everything else — steals the show. Something about Tarantino’s character creation and skill with dialogue brings the best out in Waltz. He’s detailed, devilish and double-dealing; the perfectly bad good guy.
Foxx quietly underplays deadly Django. Rather than over-the-top like his two co-stars, Foxx is almost underwhelming. It works. Django is a man slowly being squeezed in a vice and — to mix metaphors — the fly willingly walking into the spider’s lair.
When DiCaprio is on, few actors can keep up. Waltz and Foxx manage. No villains in 2012 can hold a candle to DiCaprio’s oily, self-aggrandizing and deadly Candle.
Tarantino also has an awesome sense of humor. Cameos from former TV icon Don Johnson (Miami Vice) and Jonah Hill and an outrageous sequence with men on horses wearing white hoods is the year’s best piece of film comedy. Also doing cameos are Franco Nero, Bruce Dern, James Remar, Tom Wopat, Don Stroud, Michael Parks, Russ Tamblyn and Tarantino.
Few will argue that Tarantino isn’t a seriously warped individual. But it’s in a good way. His fertile imagination produces unique, albeit, violent characters. Tarantino’s clever dialogue is perfectly tuned for the characters and the violence they produce. Once that’s set, he treats you to violence done in creative forms. They produce “ooo, ick” moments and have you alternately cringing and laughing.
Yes, it’s funny, but Django Unchained is also a serious and seriously well-done movie.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Jonah Hill, Don Johnson, Kerry Washington
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated R for extreme violence, nudity and language. It is playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.