Django Unchained

Django Unchained ★★★½


Third (maybe fourth) viewing, down slightly from 72—now 3.5 stars instead of four. Still found the first two-hours an at-once bravura display of Tarantino’s greatest strengths as a director and an exhibit of his passion for the medium: A hybridization he’s dealt with many times before e.g. successfully with DEATH PROOF and much less so (to my mind) with KILL BILL. Every time I revisit this, however, those final forty-or-so minutes get worse and worse. Strangely rushed-by-comparison (editing room woes, perhaps?) and, if we’re being honest, altogether unnecessary: The film should’ve ended with Django’s bloodbath happening directly after Candie gets shot. The entire capture-relocate-escape-revenge schema [1] “develops” and “unfolds” way too quickly (scare quotes to emphasize how shoddy the whole thing is), and [2] is frankly kinda stupid. (Not to mention it features what is far and away Tarantino’s most abysmal appearance; an anti-honor equivalent to having the worst smelling shit in a public bathroom on any given day.) The closing five minutes - the obvious Leone nod and triumphant horse mount with Django and Broomhilda - offer a modicum of redemption, but that Candie-land coda makes my heart sink, simply because the 120 minutes that precede it are nothing short of outstanding; directed with a high-wire balance of languid relishing and procedural tightness, blending violence and blatant homage with sly humor and authentic emotion, captured by a camera that moves as fluently and lingers and patently as the actors on-screen, always in just the right spot. Hate the film for Tarantino’s questionable ethics if you’re so inclined, but this is more apologetic than anything—like a whimpering “please forgive me” that’s so well composed (for two hours) and entertaining (for two hours) that the word “pathetic” barely crosses your mind. Helps if you dig Spaghetti Westerns - and I can understand those who don’t having a similar reaction to DJANGO UNCHAINED as I do to KILL BILL - but this is merely 80% incredible and entertaining as hell. That subpar 20%, however - and it is infuriatingly subpar - remains chained to the ankle of this beast, leaving a less-than-stellar aftertaste.

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