posttrib
COMFY 
Weather Updates

‘Django’ is dark, funny in Tarantino’s hands

In “Django Unchained” writer-director QuentTarantino’s antebellum spaghetti Western freed slave (Jamie Foxx left) German dentist (Christoph Waltz) form an unlikely

In “Django Unchained,” writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s antebellum spaghetti Western, a freed slave (Jamie Foxx, left) and a German dentist (Christoph Waltz) form an unlikely alliance. The film features many cameos by many action-adventure stars of ’60

storyidforme: 41897103
tmspicid: 15488385
fileheaderid: 7006635

‘DJANGO
UNCHAINED’ ★★★★

Stars: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington, Dennis Christopher and Don Johnson.

Rating: R for violence, a vicious fight, language and nudity.

Length: 2 hrs., 5 min.

Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: January 29, 2013 6:11AM



How much can Quentin Tarantino get away with?

Opening titles, theme song, character names, camera shots, even plot points that, shall we say, remind us of previous films? Not a problem! Tarantino freely admits he’s been influenced by hundreds if not thousands of films he’s seen, from the classic to the seriously obscure.

Cheerfully gratuitous violence, designed to make us cringe or even laugh? Yes, because even in these deeply troubled times, we can distinguish the difference between cartoonish R-rated movie blood and the horrors we see too often on the evening news.

OK, then. How about Leonardo DiCaprio and a host of other actors liberally spraying the n-word about, perhaps more often than in any mainstream film ever made? We’re all right with that?

In a word: yes. More on that later.

Some of us hopped on the Tarantino bandwagon in the early 1990s, and we stayed on board, even through those dicey times when QT seemed more interested in becoming a personality than a filmmaker. (Remember his turn as McKenas Cole on the TV show “Alias”? Me, neither.) Now, two decades after pinning our ears back with “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction,” the great Tarantino continues to share his love of movies by delivering terrific entertainment that’s equal parts homage and original pop art. With “Django Unchained,” Tarantino gives us an American spaghetti Western that’s a bloody good time from start to finish. (The title is inspired by the 1966 spaghetti Western “Django,” starring Franco Nero, who appears in “Django Unchained” and has a short scene with the film’s hero, clad in a lime green jacket inspired by Little Joe’s attire in “Bonanza.”)

“Django Unchained” (and yes, the “D” is silent) might be too self-aware for some moviegoers, but I love its darkly comedic tone. And make no mistake, though the violence is exceedingly graphic, especially during one momentous shootout, this is also one of the funniest movies of the year.

Perched like a king atop his horse, wearing tinted frames, Jamie Foxx is pure badass as the former slave known as Django. He’s now a partner with Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a dentist turned bounty hunter with peculiar German-accented English that makes him sound equal parts fop and mercenary.

Nobody this side of Anthony Hopkins delivers a monologue with more panache than Waltz. It’s a great performance. With his amazing line readings and his quietly intense charisma, Waltz is becoming my favorite go-to character actor, a slightly younger, Euro version of Christopher Walken. Even the names are similar!

Django and Schultz rack up the kills as they make their way to a daring and quite possibly suicidal mission to rescue Django’s wife (Kerry Washington).

So we’re pretty deep into the blood and guts of the story before we meet Calvin Candie (DiCaprio), a plantation owner who fancies himself a sophisticate but is pure sadistic animal underneath the trappings. His loyal sidekick, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), is a slave who enjoys all the trappings of top-tier, in-house butlerdom because he has completely sold out his black brothers and sisters. It’s a brilliant, brave performance by Jackson, taking on a hateful character with a seemingly infinite reserve of self-loathing.

Set in 1858 and in the world of slavery, “Django” might well contain more use of the n-word than any film ever — 110 references, according to some reports. Nearly every character — black or white, male or female — casually tosses off the word. Even as we’re plunged into Tarantino’s stylized 19th-century world, it’s hard not to flinch when you hear a likable actor such as DiCaprio saying the word again and again. And again.

“Django Unchained” is one of the best movies Tarantino has ever done, and it’s one of the best movies of the year.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.