Movie Review: Django Unchained – Tearing Bigotry a New One

I’ve sniffed the Tarantino throne for years, and plan to do so for many more. That said, I’m reasonable. For instance, both volumes of Kill Bill threatened to put me to sleep. A bizarre shift in gears at the time, the characters and the dialog felt tone deaf—I was bummed out because the Kill Bills weren’t Pulp Fiction. But, as they say: “wiggle your big toe.”

Django Unchained is no Pulp Fiction either, but at this point I don’t think it is reasonable to either look for another one, or even desire it. Tarantino has evolved in his maturation as a filmmaker and has really just hit every last nail firmly on the head with this newest offering. Both intensely meaningful and willing to make fun of itself in ways that undoubtedly were meant to make people uncomfortable, Django is an incredible example of parody that truly tears the bigotry associated with the subject matter several new ones.

Leading up to my visit to the theater, I read reviews that talked about slavery, the human spirit, exploitation, retribution, and so on. Django is both about all of that and none of it, often times reminding us of a pure love for filmmaking with cleverly shot scenes, memorable dialog, purposeful clichés, tons of cameos, characters so lush that you could forget who is playing them, and the tipping of many hats to those who tread that path before. Although it may not have offered these things in the exact format that everyone wants, it’s classic Tarantino in all the right ways. I’m not sure I can say that I’ve seen a film fill its time slot that perfectly in many years (something I recently became obsessed with when watching The Goonies for the thousandth time).

The only real criticism I can muster is that I felt a bit jarred by the occasional 70s throwback shot, such as the classic close-up facial zoom and Jamie Foxx’s horrible blue outfit—but in retrospect, those moments seem necessary in order to keep things balanced. I could be caving in because I dug Django so much (an understatement), but at the same time I can’t imagine how the picture would’ve been without them.

The only truly unenjoyable part of the experience came from my fellow audience members, who laughed at the wrong times and for the wrong reasons. To each their own, but parts of this epic were incredibly rough on the human spirit, and rougher so was the free-flow of ignorance from people, as some of the more serious points being made were mistaken for cheap jokes. One may not be able to expect more from the same cretins that greeted a preview of the next mutilation of the Die Hard franchise with a “Sweeeet!”… but I suppose that, in the least, it answers the questions out there as to whether or not the subject matter of this fantastic movie is relevant or in poor taste.

by Johnny Beaver