21 of 36 people found the following review helpful
, December 26, 2012
This review is from: Django Unchained (DVD)
Tarantino has made some great homage flicks, and he has made some fairly groundbreaking ones too, but this(for me, anyway) fails on both of those counts. His saving grace has always been his ability to write at least one really nuanced character that you either hate or love, and sometimes love to hate (Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds and the conflicted and loveable Jules in Pulp Fiction). But, with the marginally acceptable exception of the Dentist, played by Chirstoph Waltz, every single character in this movie is nothing more than a one-note blunder. Don't get me wrong, all the actors bring their A game (at times overacting and chewing scenery to great effect), but they've got nothing to work with. The "bad" guys are soooo BAD that you never get any of the shadowy dread that you might be rooting for an equally disturbed "good" guy the way you do in Leone's flicks. Here everything is so cut and dry that Django's greatest excesses seem wholly justified.
The bad guys have no moral misgivings, no chance is given for them to explore the nature of the evil that they are lording over their fellow human beings. DiCaprio is really good at being scuzzy and repulsive, but his character is really dumb. I mean REALLY dumb. "He's a Francophile. But don't speak French to him. He doesn't understand it. It embarrasses him." All the bad guys are so dumb that you almost don't have the heart to actually Hate them ("forgive them, they know not what they do"). Sam Jackson's character being the only exception (I don't want to be a spoiler, so I'll leave it there) but he is in so many ways such an understandable product of this world, you actually kind of feel bad for him.
A good villain has to be aware of their evil, or they have to possess a truly compelling justification for it that absolves them, at least in their own minds (see Bill the Butcher or Hannibal Lecter). No one in this film has that. The phrenology scene is simply lame. Yes, I know that phrenology was used as a justification, but not on its own. It was a part of a larger argument, one that could have made that scene as good as the opening of Inglorious Basterds. But instead we are just given a world full of stupid Americans (and a few Aussies) vs Django. It's like a 165 minute straw man argument.
The film has a lot of laughs, even more blood, and tons of awesomely gratuitous violence, some great cinematography and a really decent soundtrack. In short; the film has brass balls, but in the end it has no heart.
Two and a half stars, really. But I'll give the extra half for a couple of reasons that would end up being spoilers if I mentioned them.
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