Entertainment Entertainment Movies

'Django Unchained' review: Tarantino could do this all day

**1/2 (out of four)

I couldn’t listen to writer-director Quentin Tarantino talk for an especially long time, but the guy’s got a remarkable knack for dialogue. His characters, and the highly cinematic scenes he creates for them, command the screen. He’s always a talent, no matter the product.

That’s a nice way of saying Tarantino’s latest exploitation flick, “Django Unchained,” like Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic,” does more of what the filmmaker does well while suggesting he can probably cool it with his preferred style and themes. For Tarantino it’s revenge, and following the World War II revenge fantasy “Inglourious Basterds,” he’s cooked up another doozy underscored by the painful memories of history: In 1858 Texas, one minute Django (Jamie Foxx) walks in chains, connected to other slaves. The next minute Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz, who won an Oscar for “Basterds”) springs Django to help him identify a trio of brothers that Schultz, a former dentist working as a bounty hunter, will be paid handsomely to bring in. That he can collect his human targets dead or alive presents a flexible legal boundary Schultz does not hesitate to acknowledge.

For about 165 minutes, “Django Unchained” engages Tarantino’s distinctive voice while occasionally embracing something bigger than entertainment. Early on, Schultz recognizes his own hypocrisy in capitalizing on the slavery he opposes. Later, when Schultz and Django’s search for Django’s wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), brings them to the plantation of Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), Tarantino cleverly plays on the slave owner’s ignorance. The man behind “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill” is both funny and smart, and he’d probably be the first one to tell you so.

That said, presenting pre-Civil War Southerners as cartoonish racists takes roughly no knowledge or daring, and “Django Unchained” lacks tightness and forward momentum as revenge again becomes a dish best served bloodily. Waltz, Foxx and DiCaprio are all very good—though DiCaprio’s not so great as to deserve the best supporting actor Oscar some already have awarded him.

The movie itself sprawls and doesn’t always fascinate (why distract people by casting Jonah Hill in a meaningless part?), but the words and details crackle with someone skilled tending the fire.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.

 

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Matt Pais' 20 worst movies of 2012
    Matt Pais' 20 worst movies of 2012

    These movies are so bad, the rankings feel somewhat arbitrary, and totally besides the point. Don't see them. Ever. Click here for Matt's Top 20 of 2012     Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U mpais@tribune.com   Want more?...

  • Matt Pais' 20 best movies of 2012
    Matt Pais' 20 best movies of 2012

    Click here for Matt's Bottom 20 of 2012     Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U mpais@tribune.com   Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.  

  • Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise
    Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise

    Members of a University of Oklahoma fraternity apparently learned a racist chant that recently got their chapter disbanded during a national leadership cruise four years ago that was sponsored by the fraternity's national administration, the university's president said Friday.

  • In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing
    In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing

    Someone may have improperly tapped a gas line before an explosion that leveled three apartment buildings and injured nearly two dozen people, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday as firefighters soaked the still-smoldering buildings and police searched for at least two missing people.

  • Construction ongoing at Wrigley Field
    Construction ongoing at Wrigley Field

    From bleachers to structural details, work to renovate Wrigley Field continues.

  • Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden
    Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel has reduced spending and increased fines, fees and certain taxes to shrink the chronic budget deficits left over from his predecessor, Richard M. Daley.

  • Six Flags Great America's lost attractions
    Six Flags Great America's lost attractions

    Not every ride's the Willard's Whizzer. That iconic coaster debuted in 1976 when Marriott's Great America, now Six Flags Great America, in Gurnee, Ill., first opened. And it's still popular today. But for every Whizzer there's a Tidal Wave, Shockwave or Z-Force, rides existing only in memory.

  • Denim's just getting started
    Denim's just getting started

    Five years ago, denim-on-denim defied all of the dire warnings in the "Undateable" handbook: Instead of evoking John Denver or Britney Spears in her misstyled youth, chambray shirts paired with darker blue jeans became as cool as actor Johnny Depp and street-style heroine Alexa Chung.

Comments
Loading