This is a bit of a combined post (it has been a long, long while since my last one so I think you lot deserve a double-helping). On one hand it is a review of the recent Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained. On the other hand it is a plea to Quentin Tarantino to stop making films and then putting himself in them.
I suppose we should start with the film itself and build up to the bit about Quentin being a crap actor. The film, much like its predecessor Inglorious Basterds, plays fast and loose with history and has been criticised by some for playing with what is an incredibly bloody and shameful point in American history. The film revolves around Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and Django (Jamie Foxx), a German bounty hunter and a recently freed slave, as they collect bounties all across the Southern states. They eventually come up against Calvin Candie (Leonardo Di Caprio), an obnoxious (aren’t they all) plantation owner with a penchant for all things French, who is in possession of Django’s wife Broomhilda. Together they hatch a plan to get her freedom.
Slavery is not a particularly funny subject but Django is one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a while. A scene involving KKK members before a raid had me laughing all the way through and some of the interactions between characters are inspired. Tarantino has brought together a great cast with Jamie Foxx, Leonardo Di Caprio (in his first role as a proper villain) and Samuel L. Jackson turning in strong performances but in Christoph Waltz, Tarantino has found a man that makes his words sound like a song. Waltz, who won an Oscar for his terrifying portrayal of ‘The Jew Hunter’ Hans Landa in Basterds, has the perfect delivery of Tarantino’s words. The script flows beautifully out of his mouth and he is probably deserving of another Oscar.
The film is horrifically violent but often comically so. This is most evident in a climactic gunfight in which there is a running joke of one of the gunfighters getting repeatedly injured but surviving. There are moments when the violence is not comical (and I know that some of you will find none of the violence at all funny but I did) and gets very brutal indeed. However the violence is at its worst when inflicted on those that ‘deserve’ it; the baddies. When violence is directed at the ‘good’ or ‘noble’ characters it is more tasteful and restrained.
Compared to Basterds this is a much more even film. Basterds had several amazing scenes that were held together by just ‘stuff’. There were even a few bits that didn’t make sense and several characters disappeared halfway through with no explanation. The soundtrack also didn’t fit as snugly as we are used to in a Tarantino film. That criticism cannot be levelled at Django, whose soundtrack works brilliant for the film. It’s a mixture of hip-hop, classic ‘western’ music and folk that blends seamlessly into the picture.
Django as a whole is a smooth, well shot, well made film that had me engrossed from start to almost end. I say almost end because it is in the last part of the film that Quentin lumbers into view like a hippo with dyskinesia. As soon as he appears on screen you are immediately taken out of the film and when he then opens his mouth and produces what he thinks an Australian accent sounds like it almost ruins the film as a whole. Why oh why, Quentin? I know other directors have put themselves in their own films, but they often do it subtly (see: Alfred Hitchcock) or are really shit (see: M. Night Shayamalan).
You should know better Quentin. You’ve crafted a fine film with a great cast and a brilliant script, just don’t fuck it up with your face.