Larry’s review published on Letterboxd:
If there was an Oscar category for "Best Ensemble of Beards" I'm sure Django Unchained would've won. Ben Affleck's beard in Argo and Gandalf's beard in The Hobbit would've put up a good fight, but Django would've taken the cake.
This latest Tarantino flick is filled to the brim with exceptional beards, extravagant characters/performances, and of course, buckets of blood. Tarantino's nearly 3 hour take on the spaghetti Western is an interesting movie to say the least. It's more Inglorious Basterds than Once Upon a Time in the West but the Tarantino style is ever present throughout. It's a very fun movie despite its flaws and its reckless violence is spearheaded by a few key performances. Every character here is interesting but some are more layered than others. Dr. King Shultz (Waltz), Calvin Candie (DiCaprio) and Stephen (Jackson) are the standouts. Disappointingly, Django and his stolen wife are the most one dimensional and least interesting of the bunch. Just as Django begins to reach his potential, the movie ends. Some of the smaller supporting roles are also pretty good. Don Johnson as a Colonel Sanders type plantation owner is pretty funny and his organization (or lack there of) of a midnight raid is particularly hilarious. James Remar makes a small appearance as a menacing bodyguard who barely speaks. James Remar is a surprisingly talented actor and I would've liked to have seen his character more fleshed out and have more screen time. But with so many characters and scenes, cuts obviously had to be made. The characters still have whip crackin dialogue that fits with the snappy tone of the film. Character exchanges are just as exciting as the flying bullets and exploding dynamite.
Django Unchained is also a good movie on a technical level as well. The film looks great and the 35mm film makes it look authentic and lively. The cinematography captures the environments beautifully and the time period is adequately portrayed. This film in particular replaces (with the exception of a few scenes at the beginning) the usual dry barren deserts of most Westerns with the lush swampy environments of the Deep South. Everything looks alive. The blood effects look (disgustingly) juicy and hypnotic. The weapons back then were usually large caliber and very crude. The blood spray and destruction of the human body is authentic but also brilliantly disgusting. The shootout at Candieland towards the end is one of the most brutal and over exaggerated gun fights I've ever seen. I highly recommend the BluRay. Also brought out to its full potential is the sound design. Gunshots, whip cracks, bullets smacking flesh, and horses thundering across the earth are each of the highest quality. Also the song selection is strange at first, but eventually grows on you and it seems to fit despite some of the tracks being from varying time periods. Rap songs in a Western? Just leave it to Tarantino I guess!
Despite having a lot of fun with the movie, It has its fair share of problems. Some of them personal, some of them technical. The film tries to be a blaxploitation piece but goes a little to far and passes into the realm of self parody. Jackie Brown was a much better and much more subtle take on that subject. Another area that the film lacks in subtlety is the issue of white guilt. It isn't a subtextual criticism but instead a bullet labeled "white devil" shot straight into your face. I think the point of this movie went right over the head of Spike Lee.... Other than that, the film also suffers from pacing issues. It should've ended at the Candieland shootout but manage to go on for a half an hour more. Also, the reason they were AT Candieland seemed to be pretty strange. Why not just walk in and buy Broomhilda? They obviously had the money. They could've wined and dined Calvin and gave him Djangos sob story and brought out the wallet. That would've worked just as well as the silly undercover scheme. But there wouldn't have been a second half of the movie if it would've been that simple. But that never left my mind. It just seemed like a half assed segway into the tense dinner scene and climactic shootout.
All in all, I had fun with this movie. It was just as fun here on BluRay as it was in the theaters. It's always fun watching a Tarantino film with people who aren't familiar with him. They are always in for a grisly fun experience. The "oohs" "ahhs" and "ew's" get me every time. It's a silly take on westerns with Tarantino's bloody fingers all over it, but its a continuation of the trend of immature exploitation pictures from Tarantino lately. I'm hoping that his next movie returns to the humble coolness of Jackie Brown.
Oh a man can only hope...