FILM REVIEW: DJANGO UNCHAINED (18)

Quentin Tarantino has undoubtedly carved out another masterpiece with this R-rated spaghetti western pet project.

I’m going to spend most of this review telling you glowing things about Django Unchained, but once again – like he did with Inglourious Basterds – he self-indulgently takes it a tad too far, leaving this just short of absolute greatness.

I’m a massive fan – and place 1994’s Pulp Fiction as one of my top three favourite films of all-time – so find it quite infuriating that he’s just missed out on a best director Oscar nod, but with a bit of tinkering it could’ve surely snared him the gong.

But with his brilliant screenplay (like he did with Pulp Fiction), he could just take home second prize after being nominated in that category – and snagging it at the Golden Globes.

And talking of Oscars, Christoph Waltz – who steals the show again like he did in Basterds – should snag his second Best Supporting Actor under Tarantino’s tutelage with a comically sensational turn as moonlighting-as-a-dentist bounty hunter Dr King Schultz.

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It’s hard to see whether QT’s story is actually built more around Schultz than the title character – Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx’s slave Django – but it’s undoubtedly a five-star movie when Waltz mesmerises predominantly in the first two-thirds, before it’s overcooked at the end.

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But rewinding back a couple of pars, Tarantino deserves immense credit for this original story which sees Schultz free Django, take him under-his-wing, then train him to be a gunslinger – something the slavery-ensnared black community has never witnessed.

In return for Django helping Schultz in revealing the identity of the Brittle Brothers as part of a major bounty, the German promises to reciprocate the favour, by locating the slave’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) – currently owned by brutal plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio, who also snagged a Globes nomination).

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Despite impressive performances from messrs Foxx, Waltz and DiCaprio – and a butt-kissing extended cameo from Samuel L Jackson as Candie’s staunchly loyal house slave – lighting up the screen, the film is undoubtedly better in the early stages as a burgeoning buddy movie between Django-Schultz.

A particular side-story involving another ranch owner Big Daddy (Don Johnson) and sidekick (Jonah Hill), provides one of several nice comedic scenes from Tarantino.

But the elongated finale – which embellishes Django’s role as a new gun-totting ‘Billy the Kid’ to the extreme – unnecessarily draws out a story that could’ve been twenty minutes tauter.

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The gore is brutal, but generally only magnified during a handful of action set-pieces, and even though Tarantino probably gets a tad carried away – he deserves to have a bit of fun with a generally excellent nod to the genre.

But with just a bit of trimming here and there we could’ve been talking Tarantino as last man standing for that elusive best director gong.

As it stands though he still manages to reaffirm his position as one of the best helmer’s of the past generation – and with Waltz on the saddle this is just shy of genius.

He alone makes it worth unshackling yourself from the confines of your house and enduring the snow to see a quite simply breathtaking performance.

Gavin Miller

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L Jackson, Kerry Washington, Don Johnson, Walton Goggins, James Remar, Dennis Christopher, James Russo, David Steen, MC Gainey, Robert Carradine, Zoe Bell, Quentin Tarantino, Amber Tamblyn, Franco Nero, Bruce Dern, Jonah Hill

Running Time: 2hrs 40mins

Director: Quentin Tarantino [youtube id=”eUdM9vrCbow” width=”600″ height=”350″]

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