Part-blaxploitation film, part-spaghetti Western and all-Tarantino, “Django Unchained” comes charging at its audiences with guns a-blazin’. It’s not quite up to par with “Reservoir Dogs” or “Pulp Fiction,” but it’s still Tarantino — enough said.
The movie, which opens two years before the beginning of the Civil War, starts with a chain gang of slaves that includes Django (Jamie Foxx), who is purchased by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a dentist, or so he says. He needs Django to help him find three men and bring them to justice. Schultz promises to help Django reunite with his wife (Kerry Washington), who is a slave at the home of Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Candie is a brute — sophisticated but simultaneously base, thriving on pitting his slaves against each other in fights to the death.
Candie welcomes Django not as a fighter, but as someone who has a keen eye for the best fighters. Also on hand at Candie Land is Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen, a devoted butler who isn’t sure what Django and King are really up to.
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Please be warned about a couple of things before you decide to go. First, the movie is full of racist remarks and behavior, as well as over-the-top violence. This not only emphasizes the horrors of slavery, but it also makes the villains involved even more detestable. DiCaprio’s bad guy is one of the most loathsome in all of Tarantinoland. Second, if you’re not familiar with blaxploitation movies from the 1970s or so-called spaghetti Westerns (most of which were produced and directed by Italian filmmakers such as Sergio Leone), then you may not appreciate all the references to those genres that are found here.
Speaking of nods to other films, the movie “Django” was made in 1966. It starred Franco Nero as a gunman who becomes caught in a feud between the Klan and group of bandits. You’ll see Nero in small role here as a bar patron in a great sequence during which the two Djangos exchange greetings. You’ll also see actors such as Tom Wopat, Michael Parks, Don Johnson and Tarantino himself in smaller roles.
Not surprisingly, the soundtrack, which includes the likes of Ennio Morricone and Jim Croce, is marvelous. Tarantino fans, rejoice. Here’s the perfect way to end 2012 — or start 2013 — with a bang.