Movie Review: “Django Unchained” grows duller link by link

Bullets, bullwhips and beatings produce slo-mo geysers of blood.  Pistoleros launch into soliloquies on slavery and the German Siegfried myth.

“Django Unchained” is set in Quentin Taratino’s pre-Civil War South. Another indulgent movie from the cinema’s reigning junk genre junky, “Django” mashes together 1960s Italian “Spaghetti Westerns” and ‘70s American “Blacksploitation” pictures.

Hey, he got away with a fantastical World War II Holocaust revenge picture (“Inglourious Basterds”). Why not a “revenge for slavery” romp?

2stars

Django is a slave turned bounty hunter, a black man who gets to “kill white folks, and they pay you for it.” It features a couple of Oscar winners — Jamie Foxx in the title role, and Christoph Walz, who won his statuette for “Inglourious.” And we’re treated to the usual selection of Tarantino retreads – character actors he admired in his video store clerk youth whom he anoints with Travolta/Pam Grier comebacks – from Dennis Christopher (“Breaking Away”) to James Remar (“The Warriors,” “48 Hours”).

The players are in fine form. But the movie he’s embroiled them all in is a hit and miss affair, at times an amusing reimagining of history, more often a blood-spattered bore.

His films always meander a bit between “the cool parts” – over-the-top shootouts. But here, the famous witty, Tarantino monologues that spark the interludes between shootouts are weak, the connecting threads scanty. There’s no Uma Thurman soliloquy, no Christopher Walken as a Vietnam vet telling a kid about his dad’s watch, no squirm-inducing “Inglourious” Christoph Waltz interrogation monologue.

Waltz has a grand time playing a German dentist traveling the South in a more lucrative line of work.

“I kill people and sell their corpses for cash.”

He’s a bounty hunter, a wry and well-read gunslinger who relishes the irony of his trade in the land of slavery as much as he relishes twirling the hairs of his beard.

The dentist needs Django to identify some killers. And when Dr. Schultz can’t talk the hardcases transporting Django into selling him, he shoots them and frees a whole caravan of slaves.

Django is given his freedom, a horse and a gun. He’ll help with this hunt, and then set out in search of his wife (Kerry Washington), who was sold off to a distant plantation. Her name is “Broomhilda,” and Schultz, sees this as a Siegfried fights for Brunnhilde mythic quest.

This salt-and-pepper team hustle, insult and shoot their way through the Old South as if it’s the Old West. Schultz riles up the locals by expecting Django to have the same service (in saloons) as any white man. Django, given to wearing fancy duds and sunglasses, just wants them to get his name right.

“Django. The D is silent.’

Don Johnson leads a lynch mob , which includes Jonah Hill, who rides a horse “rather less well than another horse would. Leonardo DiCaprio smacks his villainous lips as the smart, hypocritical Mississippi monster they must outfox and outgun to complete Django’s quest.

The historical bastardization of “Inglourious” has nothing on “Django,” where pre-Civil War characters are seen in faded Confederate uniforms, and dynamite, that talisman of every Z-grade Western, shows up nine years before it was patented. The soundtrack ranges from imitation Spaghetti Western themes to Jim Croce ballads to gangster rap. Samuel L. Jackson turns up in old-age makeup, his “Pulp Fiction” love of modern profanity undimmed. Geographically incompetent, with plantations overfilled with all manner of shootably venal white overseers, this isn’t Ken Burns history.

All part of the fun. Sergio Leone was no historical stickler – hurling late 19th century European artillery into his spaghetti version of the Civil War in “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”

Only it’s not that much fun here. Some scenes convey Tarantino-esque tension. But his unwillingness to trim anything slows the film to a crawl.  

In “Django” he over-indulges himself and panders to his audience. Hey, it worked last time. But by the time QT himself shows up as an Aussie slave-driver (!?) in the third act, you may wish you’d had a bit more Kool-Aid before sitting down for this one.

MPAA Rating: R for, “strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language and some nudity.”

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Don Johnson

Credits: Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. A Weinstein Co./Columbia release.

Running time: 2:45

About these ads
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Movie Review: “Django Unchained” grows duller link by link

  1. “Like this: Be the first to like this.” I simply cam’t believe that I am the first, but I didn’t like your review. I note your name: Roger Moore (how creative), won’t be reading you again.

  2. Will Gadzinski says:

    Disappointed that this review is even on rottentomatoes, sadly giving it authority. Most of the review is plot summary! what is this, wikipedia?

    • Naaah. Not much plot summarizing, at all. Quick sketches of those who are in it. That’s not plot summary. Must come as a shock to you, waking up to the realization somebody doesn’t share your opinions, tastes, etc.

      • michael says:

        so you thought transformers 3 was better than Django?!?!?! You’re insane.

      • It’s shorter. It wastes less of your time. For what it is, yes. You review movies based on their ambition, their aims. And it’s shorter. Less indulgent.

      • Will Gadzinski says:

        “I kill people and sell their corpses for cash.”

        “He’s a bounty hunter, a wry and well-read gunslinger who relishes the irony of his trade in the land of slavery as much as he relishes twirling the hairs of his beard.

        The dentist needs Django to identify some killers. And when Dr. Schultz can’t talk the hardcases transporting Django into selling him, he shoots them and frees a whole caravan of slaves.

        Django is given his freedom, a horse and a gun. He’ll help with this hunt, and then set out in search of his wife (Kerry Washington), who was sold off to a distant plantation. Her name is “Broomhilda,” and Schultz, sees this as a Siegfried fights for Brunnhilde mythic quest.

        This salt-and-pepper team hustle, insult and shoot their way through the Old South as if it’s the Old West. Schultz riles up the locals by expecting Django to have the same service (in saloons) as any white man. Django, given to wearing fancy duds and sunglasses, just wants them to get his name right.

        “Django. The D is silent.’

        Don Johnson leads a lynch mob , which includes Jonah Hill, who rides a horse “rather less well than another horse would. Leonardo DiCaprio smacks his villainous lips as the smart, hypocritical Mississippi monster they must outfox and outgun to complete Django’s quest.”

        Wallowing in tripe indeed.

      • Oh, so you finally got around to seeing the movie, and you agree? You’re welcome.

  3. doombuggy says:

    I found this to be one of the better reviews: at least someone honest enough to suggest that maybe the Emperor has no clothes wrt a Tarantino film.

    What’s with the troll comments above? Must be Columbia Pictures staff.

  4. Josh L says:

    I couldn’t agree more and I can’t believe everyone seems to be okay with a mindless infantile use treatment of American slavery as backdrop for sloppy pornographic gore and a very tepidly witty script.

  5. Dennis Anderson says:

    I found the review weak. Moore cannot distinguish between a critique of the screenplay and a critique of the production. This is a common problem with many film reviewers. There is no substance to the review. I accuse Moore of pandering to his audience far more than the director ever does in the film’s artistry.

    • Seriously? Perhaps looking up “pandering” would be a good start before popping off, eh? Writer/director means you talk about both elements at once, and when I say those magical Tarantino monologues aren’t magical this time, that he can’t seem to edit himself and having a big hit right behind him doesn’t feel the need to, I’ve covered everything your ill-informed dismissal entails.

  6. John says:

    I was bored and a little embarrassed. The audience guffawing at the pornographic displays of violence was unsettling. Maybe if I were 15 again, I would enjoy this.

  7. russ stinson says:

    I thought this movie was an ugly and self-indulgent mess. I’m still mad at QT for turning into Kevin Smith, but I suspected that was happening after the seriously overhyped “Inglorius..” The main characters killing defenseless men, unsuspecting bystanders, women, etc, Ha ha? Oh, that’s right, they were Southerners- deserving only of death, right QT?
    Thank you for panning this tripe. Practically every other review seems to be for a different movie, one the reviewer maybe wishes he had seen. QT made three classics, then “Kill Bill” was entertaining but shallow. His work since has shown a steady decline. He should quit already.

    • Jim says:

      No the other reviews were accurate. This review was not. That’s ok.

      QT just keeps getting better with age. Unlike his painfully overly praised Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown, this was actually a movie.

      • Now you’re being ridic. Jackie Brown was far more coherent, though he’d started the whole “Why edit this down at all? It’s ALL good.” thing. “Pulp Fiction” was his high water mark, until the day he returns to contemporary stories. These mashup anachronisms may have some greater message, but it’s lost in all the excess. Wretched excess.

  8. mattwrob says:

    Roger,
    Although I agree with much of your review, your responses to the reader comments makes you lose credibility. Clearly, you are not objective when it comes to QT and his fans.

    Give some credit to Christopher Walz’s unique character. Would you truly rather hear dialogue from an ET car/robot in Transformers 3.

    • Sorry, I tend to match the tone of the commenter. I found Waltz interesting — less so than in “Inglourious,” which I found to be almost as pandering to a Quentin clientele and long-winded as this. Tarantino apostate. I gave up the Kool Aid.

      • Andrew says:

        I appreciate that you are willing to lower yourself to the level of your detractors, and since Transformers 3 was brought up I have a question for you: how is a giant robot sequel directed by Michael Bay a less pandering and indulgent film than this one? And why is it bad that a director would pander? Shouldn’t they make films that their audience would enjoy? This seems to be a negative review of Tarantino, not the film he made.

      • Partially true. Tarantino is making a career out of wasting screen time, indulging himself more than anyone else. Aside from his third of “Grindhouse,” he’s really been unwilling to edit himself or admit that every nugget to come out of his skull is not gold, and therefor must be kept in the finished film. This would have worked as a 90 minute grindhouse feature. As some “See how black I can be” revisionist epic, it’s flaccid.

      • Jim says:

        What? Transformers 3 was shorter? By what, 5 minutes? While I agree that QT is definitely self indulgent, Django was by far one of his more restrained efforts. Personally I loved the movie (aside from the KKK scene with the hoods) and it was nearly as self indulgent as the mindless crap spewed out by Michael Bay. Clearly the movie was just too much for most people. Which is ok. Can’t please everyone.

      • It sure played shorter. But again, it’s a mealy apple/somewhat rotten orange comparison. If the intents and ambitions were the same, one works better and is somewhat less indulgent than the other.
        As “Who can be more stupid” contests, that’s a draw.

  9. JakeTobias says:

    Good review. I initially enjoyed the movie. But then started to have doubts. Kind of like with the latest Batman movie. Kurt Loder’s contrary review gave me the perspective I was looking for, but hadn’t thought of. Though I liked Django more while watching. Mostly because it built a more satisfying climax. For a lot of people, I would not be surprised if they find it worth while. It’s a rouser. But, for once, I actually enjoyed Quentin’s appearance, and performance. I won’t say why. See the movie anyway. And I still can’t believe that one guy was Don Johnson. Did not recognize him. And I agree, somewhere Mel Brooks is smiling.

  10. Jay Jonas says:

    “overfilled with all manner of shootably venal white overseers”
    LOVE IT!!!

  11. Sinkingputts says:

    This review is a joke. The movie was great. And I agree with the comments about liking Transformer 3 better. Obviously this critic is sucking the studio tit. I’m sure Batllefield LA was better too right?

  12. jaypayday2 says:

    Not everyone will be on teh frequency, will “get it” or like it. That’s fine. I sure did, as did 88% of the other reviewers. Not everyone will be happy — and in school grades 88 would be an A+ most places. Seems right.

  13. Isaac says:

    You guys all take Tarantino way too seriously. The backdrop of slavery is only to poke fun at how ridiculous humanity was to have slavery in the first place. Yes the film goes on a bit but to even mention it in the same sentence as transformers is bizzare.

    • jack203 says:

      We still have slavery today, and ridiculous is not a term I would use for it.

      When you say the film goes on a bit…do you mean shooting defenseless unarmed humans as comedy? Well ok. Glad you liked it anyway. Not my kind of thing.

  14. Josiah Bounderby says:

    I saw the movie today, and I think this review is the most accurate short summary on the net. The movie started well, with the tense, snappy dialogue that Tarantino does so well. It was slightly comedic, but darkly so and I was enjoying it. The word Mississippi across the screen is where Tarantino went off for lunch – he came back with a Sotuh African accent that finally settled into Australian; the point being? The whole train derailed at that point. There were still fun moments – like Franco Nero’s discussion about the name Django – but little coherence as the storyline seemed to unravel…and it dragged on…and on…and on. Watch the opening scene from Peter Sellers in The Party…it dragged on that that long. This movie is half a scriptwriter, and one editor short of greatness. My feeling on leaving the cinema was not of good or bad, but of opportunity lost and vision consumed by Tarantino convention. Damn…it was almost great.

  15. Matt says:

    This movie was great, horrible review.

  16. Dominic says:

    Apparently some people don’t get Tarentino movies. His movies are made for the shock. Don’t go see this movie if you are sensitive to things that aren’t even around in today’s society. You see this movie for the gore, and the relatively dark humor that accompanies most of Tarentino’s films. Also why complain about the fact that his movies are relatively alike, when people enjoy them? What is the point of changing anything at all when he is giving people the exact thing they want to see.

  17. AustininKY says:

    Dear Mr. Moore,

    I’ve recently read your review of Django Unchained and while I respect your status as a critic of high regard, I disagree with you on many fronts. You thought the movie wasn’t as entertaining as other Tarantino flicks, but it offers up plenty of laughs and an intriguing character development. Django is the most fun I’ve had at the movies in quite a while, and you seem to neglect the very intricacies that make this movie such a blast- far from the slow affair that you suggest.

    In your review you labeled the film “a hit and miss affair.” I might’ve given some credence to this argument had you backed it up in some way. However, you do provide a single modicum of evidence to back your viewpoint, claiming that Django (Jamie Foxx) is a little too cool of a protagonist. Django’s cool aura, which you seem to point to as Tarantino fluff, was all part of the plan. Tarantino wanted to veer away from the White Savior subgenre by putting the emphasis on Django’s autonomous transformation.

    You also stated that Tarantino’s films “Meander a bit between the ‘cool parts’(gore-filled shootouts),” with this film being no exception. Admittedly, the shootouts (predominantly the closing one) were the highlights of film, but it struck much deeper than the cinematic equivalent of a sugar rush. The most intriguing part of the movie had nothing to do with the gunplay Tarantino fans had grown so accustomed to. It was the contrast between Django and the impeccable Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Stephen, the house slave. Both Stephen and Django are very intelligent, but Django isn’t willing to bend to the whims of white men, while Stephen clings to his masters machinations.

    Another point of yours was that Tarantino’s “unwillingness to trim anything slows the film to a crawl.” While the movie may seem a bit long-winded, each scene is necessary. Despite it’s length Django remains an adaption of the simple but touching Siegfried-Brunhilde Even the scenes that seem extraneous as far as plot goes are still very entertaining, like when Jonah Hill shows up as a buffoonish KKK Clansman, or Franco Nero’s cameo.
    Again, Mr. Moore, I have only the only utmost respect for you and enjoy reading your reviews posted in the Herald Leader each week, but I do respectfully disagree with your view of Django as a bore. I can only say that you may want to give the movie a second watch with my points of emphasis in mind. If you’re still sticking to your guns at that point then I guess we can just chalk it up to variances in taste.

    Sincerely,
    Austin H.

    • It’s not worth a second viewing. Two Oscars for it change nothing. It’s a silly trifle, and someday, you’ll wonder why you ever bothered taking 850 words to defend it.
      Cheers.

  18. Michael Turner says:

    Are you a racist? Because every time a movie comes out with a black lead actor, you give a a negative review even when the movie is good

    • Are you a “racialist,” somebody who trots out race every time somebody disagrees with an ill-considered opinion you’ve come up with? Your accusation is easy to dismiss. Mine, not so much.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s