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Movie Review: Django Unchained

Brilliant acting and dialogue makes Django Unchained entertaining but not much else

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Cooper and The Weinstein Company

December 26, 2012 | 12:00 p.m. CST

During the holidays many wish for a white Christmas. But any theatergoer who found themselves watching Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, Christmas was at least a bloody one. Tarantino’s films have always been a recipe of brilliant dialogue, inventive cinematography, compelling action and extreme violence. The perfect mixture has provided the 49-year-old filmmaker with cinema classics such as Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Inglourious Basterds. Although Tarantino sticks with his guns (literally), Django Unchained ends up tasting sour.

Having been described by some critics as an American spaghetti western, Django recycles similar elements from Sergio Leone’s Man with No Name trilogy — even using the musical genius of Ennio Morricone. The plot is simple enough. Django (Jamie Foxx) is freed from slavery by the traveling bounty hunter Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Together they hunt gangs and criminals in the pre-Civil War South, but when they set their sights on freeing Django’s wife from Candie Land, a Mississppi plantation owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), things get a little bloody.

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Tarantino proves that he’s a master of dialogue, and the magnetic acting of Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio is the engine behind the film. Django Unchained sports a collection of beautifully shot scenes, inventive storytelling and borderline-cartoonish blood splatter.

But despite this film's many accolades, Django will ultimately be remembered as a lesser film in Taratino’s canon. What was once original and inventive with the release of Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bill series has become formulaic. Although Tarantino makes films unlike any other director, he seems forever fascinated with the Grindhouse era of gore, which while entertaining can lack substance. In parts, Django’s plot is riddled with holes and impossibilities. Although the mark of any Grindhouse-type film is a loose plot, it seems Tarantino didn’t know how to solve certain contradictions in the film and decided to just hide it behind a cascade of blood and violence.

Let's hope that Django Unchained has successfully exorcised the Grindhouse demon from one of America’s beloved filmmakers, so hopefully he can make films with a little more feeling and a little less of a body count.

Vox Rating: V V V

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