MRR Movie Review: Django Unchained

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Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, this Western drama is set in the Deep South and follows Django (Jamie Foxx), a freed slave who treks across America with Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German dentist turned bounty hunter. Together, they try to retrieve Django's wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from the charming but sadistic Francophile plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his band of ruthless slavers.
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Movie Review: "Django Unchained"

-- Rating: R
Length: 165 minutes
Release Date: December 25, 2012
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Genre: Action, Drama

Quentin Tarantino ("Reservoir Dogs") has an almost frantic energy in every interview that he gives. He brings that energy to "Django Unchained," creating a film that is part western, part exploitation film, and wholly entertaining.

Django (Jamie Foxx, "Ray") is a slave who loses his wife, Broomhilde Von Shaft (Kerry Washington, "Scandal"), to a slave owner. Dr. King Schulz (Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds") wants those slave owners dead, and he offers Django a deal: if he helps Schulz track down the slave owners and kill them, he will help him find his wife. Schulz is a bounty hunter and former dentist who teaches Django the fundamentals of tracking and killing people.

The two men travel through the south, looking for the Speck Brothers (James Russo and James Remar). Each criminal they capture or kill makes money for them and gives them motivation to continue in their search. After dispatching with the Speck Brothers, they head to Candyland, a plantation owned by Calvin Candy (Leonardo DiCaprio, "Titanic"). True to his word, Schulz sticks by Django as he tracks down his wife in the hopes of freeing her.

Tarantino never pulls any punches when it comes to his films, and "Django Unchained "is no exception. From the opening scenes to the last moments, the film uses crude language and graphic violence to get each and every point across. Tarantino did research on the slave trade in America to provide an accurate portrayal of what those men and women went through. While it might make some viewers wince or look away, those powerful scenes are memorable.

Like his previous films, Tarantino isn't afraid to interject a little humor to lighten the darker tone of the film. When Schulz first finds Django, the slave owner tells him multiple times to stop talking to Django. Without missing a beat, Schulz shoots the man dead in his saddle and releases a one-liner that will send titters through the theater. Tarantino also cast a few cameo roles that will have viewers pointing out actors and laughing at their scenes. Some of the top cameos include Don Johnson, Robert Carradine, Jonah Hill, and Bruce Dern.

Tarantino did a fantastic job with casting, using actors that channel the characters they portray onscreen. Many early critics pointed to Waltz, who won an Academy Award in 2009 for the Tarantino film "Inglourious Basterds." Waltz's character almost seems like an ancestor of his character from that previous film, right down to the smirk on his face. He walks the line between drama and comedy, creating a realistic character.

Foxx previously won an Oscar for his work on the film "Ray," and he might find himself standing at the podium again this year. Django is the heart of the film, and without his strong portrayal, the film couldn't succeed. Foxx has a cockiness and confidence that the role desperately needs. Another actor might portray Django as a broken down slave, but Foxx plays him as a strong-willed man who will do anything to get his wife back.

Kerry Washington only has a few scenes in the film, but she plays those scenes with gusto. The actress worked on the film right after finishing work on her television show "Scandal," and she brings a lightness to the role. Whether Django fantasizes about her standing in a field filled with flowers, or she is sharing a scene with DiCaprio, she has a brightness that adds a graceful touch to the film.

DiCaprio is in his element as a wealthy plantation owner who uses slaves for his personal pleasure. The actor injects a little camp into his role, turning what could be a boring or forgettable character into one of the highlights of the film. With his white suit and playful smile, he turns in a stellar performance. Viewers will also cheer for Samuel L. Jackson. A joke around Hollywood is that the actor appears in everything, but here, he reminds viewers of his talent. As a horse thief turned slave turned master's helper, he makes his character pop.

Tarantino doesn't believe in creating short films, and "Django Unchained" tends to run a little too long. The first hour of the film is fantastic and the last thirty minutes are terrific, but the middle of the film tends to lag. Some viewers might find themselves wishing that Tarantino had cut a few scenes to make the film a little shorter and lighter. Despite the length of the film, "Django Unchained" is a compelling and sometimes humorous look at a bygone era that will entertain fans around the world.

Rating: 4 out of 5