Customer Review

21 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Django, 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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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 31, 2012 11:09:37 AM PST
An excellent review. However your comments seem to betray knowledge of the fact that these plantation owners were in fact very dumb people, not slapstick dumb of course, but dumb and greedy nevertheless. Anyway this is a "stitck" often used to darken the villain in American movies, so why get upset when the villain is a slave owners?

I for one do not believe there is room to humanize slaveowners. And for what purpose? I assume you would disagree. Anyway, I enjoyed your review -- especially as I too saw it as the sequel to Inglorious Basterds and said as much in my own review. What bothered me about the movie was the context of the times: Xmas and the Sandy Hook massacre.

Posted on Jan 9, 2013 12:52:30 PM PST
I totally feel that this was 100% a 5 star movie, but the argument you make is extremely valid, and it's an argument Stephen King makes in his book "On Writing." However, I also see what Herbert L Calhoun is saying, that this is not a good subject matter to set up any empathy for the villains.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2013 7:35:15 PM PST
Takeshisan says:
Thanks for the feedback (I always appreciate comments). Let me attempt to clarify.
I didn't use the word empathy, because I wasn't looking for empathy with the villains, just some qualities that make them more than caricatures. (I'll stick to QT films here just so it's clear that I'm not picking on him, because I actually like his flicks quite a bit). Tarantino did a great job with making Hans Landa, the Nazi from Inglorious Basterds, come to life. He had layers, but these guys don't.
Picking on slave owners and rednecks is easy (it's like picking on Nazis). They are all a**holes and I already hate them, so give me someone I LOVE to hate. Hans Landa and the Nazi in the bar who picked out the fake accent are great examples of people you do not like, but you relish in seeing what they will do, and you wonder Why they do what they do, and when they finally get what's coming to them it makes it that much sweeter There's no one in this film that I felt that way about, so it left me kinda cold. Quite honestly, I think that Don Johnson's character had more potential to be interesting than Leonardo's.
There are a lot of other reasons I took off the extra stars, but I don't really want to get into too many spoilers here. Let's just say that, aside from my earlier complaints, I didn't for one second believe that the Dentist would do what he did there at the end. It made no sense and it was totally out of character from everything else he had done for the entire first part of the film and that is a big part of the problem for me. These characters have no real depth and they just sort of live to serve QT's need to set up another big battle scene and slip in a cameo (a funny cameo scene, but totally unnecessary) . They just do...whatever, whenever. To me, it's poor writing from a guy who knows better and can do better. I haven't seen any of QT's other movies for quite a while, but I can remember every main character's name from each of his other films, and I cannot, for the life of me remember a single character's name from this one (other than Django) and I saw it two weeks ago. Again, it was entertaining enough while I was watching, but it didn't resonate. The more I thought about it, the more I found to dislike, which is (for me) the opposite of his earlier films.
But hey, different strokes...

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 28, 2013 11:42:05 PM PST
Tara B. says:
I will readily admit that I didn't read the -entire- review, nor did I read your entire clarification post, but I just want to say that I whole-heartedly disagree with your take on The Dentist's actions at the end. You saw it from the way he reacted in the first scene he was shown in, from all his reactions to even the slightest, um, slight referencing certain things throughout the film. (Sorry, I'm not as adept at avoiding being a Spoiler as you are. ;) )

Honestly the thing that ruined the movie the most for me was Kerry Washington. Screechy, annoying and COMPLETELY useless. They should've just shot her and the movie would've been just as good, if not better. But that's just me. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 29, 2013 11:28:22 AM PST
Ha! I had exactly the same reaction to Kerry's role and acting. It was not her finest hour for sure.

By the way there are better reviews than mine among the lists. I highly recommend them.

Posted on Feb 1, 2013 12:47:44 PM PST
J. Castle says:
dexterously said.....i left the theatre wholly unamazed by this latest tarantino flick. it was shallow, clever-less, ego barf. c'mon, starting out with the same cheesy theme song to tarantino's produced film "django sukiyaki" showed this was going to be like an only childs' re-imaginings in the sand box with his tin soldiers and a box of firecrackers...rarely intriguing, senselessly violent, completely impossible, undeveloped, and worst of all: unintelligent. the very quality of tarantino's films that tied it all together and drew us into them wide-eyed with wonder has been drummed out with excess revolver shot and yanks pretending to be southerners in this slave's revenge farce.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 7, 2013 4:16:31 PM PST
Takeshisan says:
You made me laugh out loud. Not LOL, but actual, audible laughter. I may have said it in a "dexterous" fashion, but you got to the point and did it with flair. This is what I come here for.
Thanks.

Posted on Mar 10, 2013 11:54:54 AM PDT
clemos says:
Best movie I have seen in years. Brilliant!
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