Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio
Django Unchained boasts a lot of stand-out scenes; scenes of indulgent but undeniable hilarity, brutality and originality (the highlights including the obstacles faced by the founding members of the KKK, a Mandingo fight-to-the-death and any moment in which Samuel L. Jackson is on screen). It is a good movie; well shot, well scored, and the performances of Waltz, Dicaprio and Jackson are of the highest order. It is not, however, a great movie… and the problems lie in the most unlikely of places for a Tarantino movie; the editing, the pacing and the casting of the lead.
The editing and pacing issues are intertwined. In order to allow the iconic scenes more time, those needed for continuity/exposition are shortened and soon over to allow for more interesting scenarios. I’m aware that in truth Django Unchained is an exploitation movie, but those critics that declare its something more can’t forgive the lack of time allocated to nurturing character arcs for the two protagonists, or delving deeper into the love story that is supposedly at the heart of the story. Django himself traverses the 1st and 2nd acts with a likeable naivety, but upon entering the 3rd has become distractingly unlikeable – a problem created by both rushed development and an uncharismatic portrayal by Jamie Foxx, who seems to always be trying to keep his head just above water in the presence of true thespians.
Anyone who has seen a Tarantino film will know that the finale will bring all the characters together in one place for a tense showdown. But this is no Reservoir Dogs. And by the time I had suffered through the director’s expected cameo this became clear. While I had enjoyed spending time in this universe for those stand-out scenes previously mentioned, it hadn’t been exceptional, and at times it had even been sub-par. After the immaculately constructed Inglourious Basterds I was disappointed by this.
As previously stated, Django Unchained is a good movie, just not as good as I wanted it to be.
3.5 Michael Parks cameos out of 5