11
Jan
13

Django Should Have Left the Chains On

Django is off the chain. Get it? Anyone? Hello?

Middle-school drop-out Quentin Tarantino brings us his newest film, a Western-inspired adventure through the South complete with his trademark dialog, excessive violence, and bizarre sense of humor. The movie begins with the date, 1858, and a statement, “Two years before the Civil War.” That would be true if the Civil War began in 1860. But it began in 1861. Maybe if Tarantino hadn’t dropped out of Middle-school, he would realize that 61 – 58 does not equal 2.

Django Unchained tells the story of Django, a slave who becomes a free man. The majority of the film is his quest to free his wife Broomhilda from slavery, as well. In doing so, he teams up with a bounty hunter and goes under-cover, so to speak, in order to accomplish his goals. At its heart, this movie is a revenge tale, an outlet of anger against slavery at the hands of white oppressors.

Christoph Waltz turns in a brilliant performance as ex-dentist-turned-bounty-hunter Dr. King Schultz. He displays warmth and charisma, and makes the dialog sing. Jamie Foxx is also excellent as the title character, showing a natural transformation from uneducated slave to an educated and cunning killing machine. All the other actors turned in good performances, too, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Don Johnson. Samuel L. Jackson completely stole the show with his portrayal of Stephen, the head house slave. He was ornery, cursed up a storm, and was generally hilarious.

He should play villains more often.

The first part of the movie is amazing. It featured Schultz freeing Django, showing him the bounty hunting trade, going after the Brittle Brothers, and having a montage of Django training. The pacing of all this was absolutely perfect. After that, the film moves into the much slower second part. This is where the movie takes a nosedive from amazing to WTF. The pacing is so plodding and lethargic, the content so dull, that I couldn’t fucking stand it. All that happens in the second part is Schultz and Django meet with Calvin Candie, go to his plantation for negotiations, and have a final shootout. That’s it. That’s three fucking things. It could have all gone down in 45 minutes. Possibly less. But under Tarantino’s cumbersome direction, it balloons out to nearly 2 hours.

I’ve seen all of Tarantino’s movies, and I’ve liked almost all of them. He loves to write quirky dialog. He likes to let his camera linger on actors. He will never be accused of moving any film along too quickly. I knew all that going in, and yet it was still an enormous bore. The dining room scene alone must last at least 30 minutes. And while the dialog is interesting, it isn’t really all that important. Not much of substance really happens in this grueling test of patience. And once Candie discovers Django’s ruse, we go on yet another dialog tangent. Ugh, goddammit. Would it have killed Tarantino to speed this shit up?

The main problem comes from the editing. Sally Menke, who had previously edited all of Tarantino’s movies, died in 2010. Surely, she would have known what to cut and how to move things along at a faster pace. Django’s editor, Fred Raskin, has only edited shit, including three Fast & Furious movies, and probably was clueless how to edit a movie that didn’t feature car races or Vin Diesel. He also probably didn’t have the balls to stand up to Tarantino when a cut was desperately needed. So, just like The Hobbit, Django Unchained plods along with unnecessary scenes, an excessively long runtime, and becomes a chore to watch. There is no fucking way a revenge-story Western needs to be 2 hours and 45 minutes long. It could have been 90 minutes and accomplished just as much.

Schultz is the only good white person in America.

Also, the characters act like fucking imbeciles. Mostly, it’s Schultz who pissed me off. He went through a lot of work to get Django into Candyland and to set up the ruse to buy Broomhilda. And he completely fucks it up by murdering Candie with a shotgun pointed at his back. Did he really think he was going to walk out of there alive? Clearly, he had a goddamn death wish. His rash mistake also likely doomed Django and Broomhilda. Even though Django manages to kill everybody and save the day at the end, there is no fucking way two black people on horses are going to make it out of the pre-Civil War Deep South alive. Who cares if they have papers indicating their freedom? The Klan surely wouldn’t. And neither would any slavers. Obviously, this retardedness lies with the writer, Tarantino. If he wanted to kill off Schultz he could have easily thought of a better way. One that doesn’t indicate the dentist is a moron, and doom the other characters all at the same time.

The shootout that follows was all right. It was gory as hell, and entertaining enough. All of the deaths in the movie feature an excessive amount of blood. Instead of using one or two blood packs, they must have used 20. Single gunshots erupt with geysers of blood. It’s so much that it becomes comical and borders on the absurd. By doing this, Tarantino is able to extract horror and humor out of the film’s violence. And despite this being a questionable decision, it works to the movie’s advantage.

This picture from the set should give you some idea of how much blood they used.

Once the shootout in the house ends, the remainder of the film is very anti-climactic. Django eventually escapes the bad guys and returns to gun down everyone. He does this without taking a single scratch. And this being a “Western” there should have been a showdown or duel or something with a villain. It looked like they were setting that up with Walton Goggins’ character, but it never happened. He got shot just like every other nameless extra in the film. And in the end, Django blows up Candyland with a bunch of dynamite. Never mind the fact that dynamite wasn’t invented until 1867, that’s not important.

The most hilarious part was the scene where Django is hanging upside-down, naked, and you can see a big-ole fake rubber penis. I guess Jamie Foxx was too shy to show off his goods. That had to be the most distracting thing in the movie. Well, now that I think about it, the most distracting thing in the movie was Tarantino himself. He’s been known to put himself in small roles in his movies, and usually that’s OK. But here, he sticks out like a sore thumb, with his morbid obesity and horribly fake Australian accent.

I have to give Tarantino props for trying to make a statement with this movie. Typically, his movies are entertaining, but don’t have a lot to say. That’s ironic considering they usually feature non-stop talking. He has a tendency to make movies for himself, tributes to various genres like Grindhouse or Martial-Arts. Django Unchained is his first movie to tackle bigger issues: namely racism and slavery. The word “nigger” gets thrown around about 500,000 times to show just how callous the attitude of whites were toward blacks. The human death-matches, the torture, and the murder by ravenous dogs were all very unsettling scenes. They showcased how slaves were considered sub-human, nothing more than pieces of property. Those scenes are meant to be unsettling, to remind us how horrible all of this truly was.

Django meets Django.

Django has an interesting character arc. He starts out as good and innocent. As the movie progresses he gets a taste for killing and his morality moves into a gray area. By the end of the movie he has descended to depths just as low as any white oppressor. He kills everyone in sight, dons the clothes of the villain, and completes his journey to amorality. This character arc may not have been intentional, but it is clearly there.

Overall, Django Unchained is a very mixed film. The first part is excellent, with good pacing and fun action. The second part is a bore, a slog to get through, and completely decimates the goodwill earned from the first part. If Tarantino wasn’t so in love with himself, and was able to show some goddamn restraint, he could have turned in a masterpiece. He didn’t. I just wish someone on set had been the voice of reason, telling Tarantino to reign it in a bit, not to use 90 blood packs per gunshot, not to put himself in the movie, and not to make it any longer than it needed to be. Fortunately, good performances from the actors are enough to save the movie from being a complete piece of shit.

Verdict: Average

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30 Responses to “Django Should Have Left the Chains On”


  1. January 11, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Good review. It’s a crazy and wild movie, but it’s exactly what we have all come to expect now from Tarantino and that’s never a bad thing. Or at least I don’t think so.

    • January 11, 2013 at 10:39 pm

      Yeah, Tarantino has become somewhat predictable. You always know what you’re going to get with one of his movies. But if you’re a fan of his style, as I am, then that’s definitely a good thing.

  2. January 11, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing your views. I am going to go and see the movie now and find out how I will like it. :)

  3. 5 marysia
    January 12, 2013 at 3:44 am

    Hey, I didn’t read thoroughtly, as I haven’t seen it yet, so sorry if I ask about something You already wrote, but did you happen to see any of the original Django movies or Takeshi Miike’s ‘Sukiyaki Western Django’? I just wonder if it is again something like Kill Bill was to Lady Snowblood. Not that I didn’t like it, I think that Tarantino’s copious borrowings from other cinemas are in general quite skillfull, I was just curious.

    • January 12, 2013 at 8:27 am

      I didn’t say so explicitly in the review, but I have seen the original Django with Franco Nero as well as Sukiyaki Western Django. I thought the original Django was pretty good. Not on par with anything by Sergio Leone, but pretty decent. I didn’t like SWD at all, and Tarantino’s acting in it was atrocious. I don’t think Django Unchained has much in common with Django. I didn’t notice him borrowing too much from it besides the name and the opening theme song. Kill Bill borrows more from Lady Snowblood than Django Unchained borrows from Django. I hope that answers your question. Thanks for dropping by!

      • 7 marysia
        January 12, 2013 at 11:44 am

        Yes it does, thanks a lot :)
        I am reading You for quite a while now, I just never had any question or comment to share before.

  4. 8 sanclementejedi
    January 17, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Yeah I can see what your saying about this film being a bit self indulgent and good points about the start of the Civil War and Nobel’s invention of dynamite. However, I still had a wonderful time watching this film. I wanted to get myself a blue velvet suit and start whipping some overseers when I walked out of the theater. ;-)

    • January 18, 2013 at 10:12 am

      Don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoyed the movie. And the historical inaccuracy isn’t too annoying; the dynamite thing is pretty minor. But yeah, it was definitely self-indulgent to the extreme. I hope Tarantino can find someone to reign him in a bit on his next movie.

  5. 11 Dee
    January 21, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Completely agree on the pacing of the movie, and on Tarantino’s arrogant assumption that dumb American movie audiences will buy anything he puts Ina movie. Kiling Schultz eliminates any wisp of redemptive value– and his statement that he just couldn’t help himself!?!? WTF! Great Review!

  6. 13 Paragraph Film Reviews
    January 22, 2013 at 6:17 am

    Damn – almost identical review of this! Plodding indeed, and like you say, just totally balls editiing and no cuts. I was really wanting Goggins to get some decent screentime, but he just had to look dumb then scream a bit – totally shit!

    Didn’t hate this film, but could have been about a million times better.

    • January 22, 2013 at 9:06 am

      Honestly, Goggins is a great actor and he was criminally underutilized. I think we are in the same camp in terms of how much we liked the movie. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. Any future viewings will probably come via Netflix rather than running out to buy the blu-ray.

  7. January 25, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    I saw this movie yesterday. I liked the acting above all, but as you did, I found I enjoyed the first half much more than the second. Also, why didn’t you mention the awful squeaking tooth on the top of Schultz’s caravan – it came through all of the surround sound channels in the theatre, and I just wanted to go right on to that set and yell at Tarantino or someone until they removed it. But I suppose they redeemed themselves when they blew it up – and that reminds me, how did you feel about that shot where Tarantino is killed by the exploding dynamite?

    • January 27, 2013 at 9:00 am

      I didn’t really notice the tooth being all that noisy. I was, however, extremely happy when Tarantino was blown up. Probably the only funny moment of the movie’s second half.

  8. January 28, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Finally caught this over the weekend. I enjoyed it. More than you, definitely. Was hoping for more Goggins. Man can act. I wanted Boyd Crowder on the big screen. But he just came across, like you said, as a nameless goon. Such a shame.

    Didn’t notice the pacing of the film as that off. Thought it was pretty well paced. Skipped along fairly quickly. Or maybe it’s just that all the other films I’ve seen in the cinema recently have all gone way over 2 hours. This at just under feels somewhat short.

    • January 28, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      At least we agree on Goggins. I guess the only way we’ll get Boyd Crowder on the big screen is a Justified movie. I have no clue how you could have felt the movie was too short. It’s almost 3 hours long! We need to stop encouraging these megalomaniac directors from making such long movies.

  9. February 24, 2013 at 1:34 am

    Any twit can write a nasty review. Those parts you seemed to think we’re long and boring were the parts that let you understand what was happening and why. Did you think the action scenes told the story. The action scenes were candy. Perhaps you’d be happier watching something like Transformers. Or Lethal Weapon.

    • February 24, 2013 at 9:16 am

      If you thought THIS was a nasty review, you’d better read some more of my work. ;) For example, the Michael Bay as one of the four horseman of the filmmaking apocalypse post.

  10. April 11, 2013 at 8:04 am

    I liked elements of this review, especially the technical aspects, but I think that Tarantino fails in his attempt to tackle the “bigger issues”. For example, I think that the blood and violence at the end undermines the “unsettling” portrayal of slavery. In fact, I don’t think it was unsettling at all. The White “bros” at the theater that I was in left the movie clapping and cheering lol. I’m glad that you noticed the penis, I would argue that this was a very important scene for understanding his treatment of race, and how race & sex intersect. http://www.orchestratedpulse.com/2013/04/django-white-redemption-black-penis/

    “We can literally *gaze* at Django’s penis, the same kind of gaze on Black bodies that catalyzed the very real genital mutilation that Tarantino was presumably attempting to critique. As a result, by using the camera to play into our society’s fixation on Black penises, Tarantino reinforces the stereotype of hypersexual and bestial Black masculinity.”

  11. 24 duh
    April 20, 2013 at 1:47 am

    first off you are a fucken retard. Schultz seemed a little off through the whole movie and he was thinking about how candie let the digs chew up the slaves so he went nuts. come on dude.

  12. 25 Rob
    June 9, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    I totally agree with this review. The part where django is compared to the hobbit is so true they are both too long and django just really felt long and boring for me.

  13. 27 Glad He Ate Her
    August 1, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    I’m willing to let Django Unchained slide on an 1860 Civil War start date. It’s fantastic history, after all, not unlike Inglourious Basterds.

    What really doesn’t make sense is King Schultz advising the slaves he frees in the beginning to head north, even though they’re in Texas, and the Underground Railroad didn’t reach anywhere near that far south, whereas adjacent Mexico had abolished slavery in 1829. Unless, of course, in the world of DU, Mexico was isn’t a free country.

    Anyway, I’m sure you’re right that Fred Raskin didn’t have the balls to stand up to Quentin Tarantino, and I agree that the movie could’ve been shorter (though maybe not 75 minutes shorter), but I wasn’t bored either time I watched it. (N.b.: Siegfried runs five and a half hours at the Met.)

    Schultz is a romantic; that’s why he’d rather kill Calvin Candie than shake his hand, even if–or rather because–it spells Schultz’s doom. And while it’s true that in real life Django Freeman and his wife wouldn’t have gotten out of Mississippi alive, DU is a fable, like the German tale it pays homage to. By the way, the Ku Klux Klan arose in reaction to Reconstruction–it didn’t exist before the Civil War.

    I can’t fault the picture for not having a showdown between Freeman and Billy Crash. The latter is a minor character, and I think it would’ve been silly to elevate him to Big Bad (besides, it’s not really a western, but a southern). I like that Candieland itself is effectively the archvillain, and is appropriately dispatched. But you’re right that that probably should’ve been gunpowder or nitroglycerin, not dynamite.

    I didn’t have a problem with Tarantino’s cameo. I found him far more tolerable in DU than in Reservoir Dogs. And I kind of have to hand it to any director who blows himself up.

    I have to disagree with your assessment of Freeman’s arc. All of his mayhem and killings are justified, so how can it be said that he’s “descended to depths just as low as any white oppressor”? He never enslaves or rapes or otherwise tortures anyone. And if he were amoral, or immoral, he wouldn’t have spared Cora’s and Sheba’s lives at the end. His progression is fairly clearly from slave to Siegfried. He’s far more akin to Spartacus than to Crassus.

  14. October 19, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Hey man, cool blog. I have enjoyed it.

    I understand what you say about the length of the second part of the movie. Although it did not bother me much I agree.

    Nevertheless, I strongly disagree with your view that Dr Schultz’s actions at the end were nonsensical or dumb. To me it is one of the most climactic, key parts of the film. I always felt that there were two intertwined but somehow independent stories in the film: Django’s and Dr Schultz’s. Django doesn’t gives much shit about the slavery/morality side of the film. He’s a character, playing the role he has been given and enjoying it. He’s not in conflict even though he’s on the worst side of the slavery situation. he just want to get his girl back. fuck everything else.

    Dr Scholtz on the other hand, he’s tired. Too much burden and corpses on his back. He’s in a good position in life but yet without nothing to lose. Melancholy. Love of his life long gone. Decides to help Django (living through him perhaps) to get his love back. Maybe he will stop after this last heist. Problem is they stumble upon this detestable character (Dicaprio’s), representing all that makes Schultz uneasy with that awful time in history. Schultz is modernity and he couldn’t take it anymore. He takes the load of his shoulders with that final blow at the monstrosity of his time embodied in Dicaprio. it’s liberating.

    What I loved about the film was that Schultz’s ghosts still exist today. In the modern, first world. And you just watched a freakin western! Go around and make your life in this filthy world, finding ways to make your money and earn your bread. somethings have changed and (maybe?) you dont go around killing people to make ends meet, but wouldn’t you fancy that final blow at stupidity and bigotry?

    C

    • October 25, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      Hey, thanks for leaving a comment. I’m glad you like the blog. You have an interesting interpretation on Schultz. I appreciated reading it. I do disagree that Schultz would so knowingly throw his life away, and put Django (and Broomhilda) in severe danger after all they went through. I really think that Schultz wasn’t thinking clearly.


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