These messy films will always be damned to a lot more hate than the usual classics; but where would the medium of film be without them? Not that Tarantino ever set out to make such a film as this; the original script, which was leaked before the film even graced our screens, was a very different affair. The problem here isn't what could have been, it's that the changes are glaringly obvious. There's an interlude towards the end that interrupts the whole flow of the film. Not that it ruins it, but a film this big and ambitious (you've got to find an extra three hours for this baby) starts to feel even messier than it already is when the writer-director starts to make last minute re-writes and combine characters together.
Tarantino might be an eccentric when it comes to personality, but the man's always had a great level of restraint. His apparent blood fetish hasn't actually materialized for real in any of his films until this one; where his previous exercises in cutting the camera away from the violence and focusing more on the build up than the climax are nowhere to be found, here he can't get enough of the red stuff. Not exactly a bad thing in the majority of places, it's not like the western is the genre of subtlety, but at times the cowboys getting blasted away just become faceless goons, only there to be killed, and of course any action scenes where the people fighting are pointless means the action scene itself is pointless. Nevertheless Tarantino adds enough flare to proceedings that you rarely care; even if you might sometimes wish he lived up to that apparent Sergeo Leone influence a bit more.
But where the hell are my manors? I should probably have explained the premise by now. Oh yeah that's where I left them, in the fucking rental store where you can watch this, or atleast bite the bullet and watch the damn trailer. It's a tale of this guy called Django trying to find his dearly beloved; Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who haunts Django (a never-better Jamie Foxx) throughout the film, but is little more than the damsel in the distress once she is found. Although once again not really a problem, people wanting a real romance have (very obviously from the outset) came to the wrong place. It's the story of Django and the German dentist-tunred-bountyhunter Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz) who frees him. There are of course detours throughout their adventure, but the story is simple really, rescuing Django's wife from plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio; finally embracing a darker side that seems to trump his tortured-hero persona) by going to his slave plantation of slave plantations: Candieland.
So firstly what's good; Tarantino's dialogue starts in a bit of a funk (sounding stilted and self-aware) but quickly gets better and better, building up to the film's centerpiece; all of the key players around a friendly diner table that slowly falls into oblivion. The dialogue here is just as smooth and quotable as anything else the man's ever written. The whole film just looks good too; Tarantino continues to baffle some with his choice of Robert Richardson as cinematographer, who's pristine shine doesn't seem to fit with Tarantino's grundgy 70s tendencies, yet I think it fits. Tarantino's always been great at framing shots and showing off a knowledge of the craft, he's thankfully never took that to boring extremes (ala Paul Thomas Anderson) and usually seems more focused on the writing and story anyway. Here his directional skills, here meaning his framing and staging, feel a little more on the fly, but they're still solid enough to keep a nerdy film fan like me impressed; and it's that attention to detail that makes Richardson the right person to capture these gruesome tales on celluloid. On top of that you have a great action film, with another very memorable soundtrack (I was straight on the internet finding out what that ending track was) and lots of the cute Tarantino-isms that fans will be expecting (just look for all the character names and ironic references)
And with all the hype that's went into them then I suppose I should mention the cast. Foxx is as cool and controlled as Leone's Man With No Name, just with the act of being a freed slave adding a bit of an extra dynamic (and some nice clothes too). Samuel L Jackson playing Candie's house slave Stephen also gives us one of the films best performances. It's the first performance I can remember Jackson doing in years that doesn't have him playing himself; I had forgot how nice it was to be reminded every few years that this guy could act. As I mentioned before many actors here are underused, and you can add another one of Tarantino's career-revivals in the form of Don Johnson to that list. Not bad, just no standout.
|Fun Fact: Thats a real cut open hand right there|
So where does that leave Django standing in Tarantino's filmography? I'd actually vouch for it being one of his best. It doesn't have the immaculate plotting of Inglorious Basterds, but Tarantino did spend roughly 10 years writing his self proclaimed "masterpiece", and while that film did feel like it was made by a super-human who could see all situations from all angles, it also left the film feeling a bit stilted. In Basterds everything played out because that was how it's writer-director had pre-determined it through endless re-writes and long-planned-out changes. Django in comparison feels like a breath of fresh air; a piece of pure spontaneity. Tarantino clearly didn't see from all angles this time, but it doesn't matter because this is an enjoyable journey, filled with dark humor, interesting characters and hilariously over the top gun battles. 9/10