Quentin Tarantino, everyone’s favorite hipster director, is back again with “Django Unchained,” a film in the same hypothetical revisionist-history vein as “Inglourious Basterds.” Heck, Christoph Waltz plays virtually the same enigmatic character here as he did with that film, albeit with a lot more good-nature and a tad more complexity. Both films have a righteous streak to them, as if Tarantino wants to apologize for all of history’s wrongdoings.
A very admirable sentiment, of course, but the execution here muddles the message at best. You guessed it: more Tarantino hyper-violence is on full display in “Django.” However, this graphic display of blood and gore comes with a historical context; since the film takes place during the height of slavery in the U.S., Tarantino is allowed the “artistic pass” for showing the brutality of all that went on during that era. Still, it would’ve been nice had he given his audience less to laugh about and more to cringe about. Every time someone on screen dies an over-the-top death (including Tarantino himself in a not-so-subtle cameo), the audience is compelled to laugh uproariously instead of screaming in horror. Nervous laughter though it may be, this reviewer still felt a little twinge of guilt as he left the screening for finding funny that which is not humorous.
Of course, production values are high, there’s no question about that. The cinematography is crisp and the editing is extremely precise. The soundtrack varies from old Ennio Morricone spaghetti-western film scores to a new Rick Ross rap track (placed in the film at a completely unexpected moment). There is many an homage to old Western films and B-movie aesthetics.
But for all the visual and aural glitz and glamour (or maybe that should be grit and glamour), the story is pretty predictable: guy goes on quest to save damsel in distress, meets a colorful cast of characters along the way, and after a epic battle of sorts, guy saves the day. Unlike “Pulp Fiction,” you almost always know where “Django” is headed. If Tarantino isn’t careful, he may end up being a one-trick pony. Then again, with the convoluted dialogue, visual sheen, and gratuitous amount of violence on display, he may already be halfway there.