First Wave Of DJANGO UNCHAINED Reviews Are In! Is It A Hit Or A Miss?
Mild Spoilers! Reviews for Quentin Tarantino's latest revenge offering, Django Unchained have arrived! Hit the jump to check out a compilation of excerpts from some of the top film critics.
Jim Vejvoda of IGN
Writer-director Quentin Tarantino has made one of 2012's best movies with Django Unchained, a weird, wild, and violent crowd-pleaser that serves as a raucous salute to the spaghetti western.
The real standouts in the cast are Waltz, DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Candie's loyal, old house slave Stephen. This character, as Tarantino has explained, is meant to personify some of the most hated of African-American stereotypes, while also serving as a crafty villain in his own right. Jackson really sinks his teeth into it and has great chemistry with DiCaprio, whose character he essentially raised. DiCaprio also clearly relishes his larger-than-life role, playing Candie as a dandified bastard. Foxx is solid as Django, stripping away his movie star persona as he also did in Ali and Collateral. He's tough, yet vulnerable.
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter
The anecdotal, odyssey-like structure of this long, talky saga could be considered indulgent, but Tarantino injects the weighty material with so many jocular, startling and unexpected touches that it’s constantly stimulating. A stellar cast and strong action and comedy elements will attract a good-sized audience internationally, though distaste for the subject matter and the irreverent take on a tragic subject might make some prospective viewers hesitate.
The film’s greatest problem is that, especially in the second half, the Django character gets a bit lost in the shuffle; he doesn’t pop from the screen the way Schultz, Candie and Stephen do. Django is all about being resolute and determined, but more detail could have filled out the character’s transformation from downtrodden slave to steely master gunfighter. Schultz teaches him about Siegfried and firearms, but the long-journey format could have nicely accommodated a fuller, more gradual account of the expansion of Django’s mind and horizons; as it is, he lurches from impotent nonperson to cocky dude too abruptly.
Nick Newman of The Film Stage
A caveat that prevents Django Unchained from earning a slightly higher score (A-): if the film is, at any point, ever unable to carry all of its own weight, the middle section would need to be singled out. It’s in some of the moments after DiCaprio’s introduction when it feels, in some way, that Tarantino’s fallen a bit too in love with his own world — where things gets a bit doughy around the edges, structure- and pacing-wise, and where no central character is readily identifiable.
To hell with it, though. The second act climaxes with, speaking in terms of off-camera filmmaking and on-camera character stakes, one of the more tense scenes in Tarantino’s entire oeuvre, leading into a third act with closure is so sweet it doesn’t matter if you saw it coming from the start.
Drew McWeeny of Hit Fix
"Django Unchained" is "Blazing Saddles" with a body count, a positively incendiary entertainment about America's greatest shame, the personal and social toll of slavery, and like Tarantino's last film, "Inglourious Basterds," this is a case of history being remixed in a way that makes more emotional sense to Tarantino as a storyteller. I don't know what instigated this switch in direction for him, but I love it. The emotional rush that hit at the end of "Basterds" was remarkable, this compelling feeling that we were getting to see something that we needed to see, no matter if it was 100% factual or not. It was emotionally correct, and that's all that mattered.
Tarantino talks often of quitting as a filmmaker, but when he continues to turn out work this vital and alive, I hope that remains the idle chatter between each recharge of his battery, because his voice is one of the true treasures of modern movies, with "Django" simply the latest entry in one of the most interesting filmographies.
Peter Debruge of Variety
Django joins a too-short list of slaves-turned-heroes in American cinema, as this zeitgeist-shaping romp cleverly upgrades the mysterious Man in Black archetype to a formidable Black Man. Once again, Quentin Tarantino rides to the Weinsteins' rescue, delivering a bloody hilarious (and hilariously bloody) Christmas counter-programmer, which Sony will unleash abroad.
Gorgeously lit and lensed by Robert Richardson against authentic American landscapes (as opposed to the Italian soil Corbucci used), the film pays breathtaking respect not just to Tarantino's many cinematic influences, but to the country itself, envisioning a way out of the slavery mess it depicts. In sheer formal terms, "Django Unchained" is rich enough to reward multiple viewings, while thematics will make this thorny "southern" -- as the director aptly dubs it -- perhaps his most closely studied work.
Eric Kohn of Indie Wire
At times more in line with "Blazing Saddles" than the grimly bawdy qualities that define many bonafide oaters, "Django Unchained" erupts with a conceptual brilliance from the outset that never fully meshes with its clumsy storyline. Nevertheless, it's a giddy ride.
However, much of what makes "Django Unchained" so energizing right out of the gate is ruined by an overindulgence of those same ingredients during the bloated second half. There's so much to admire about the movie that I had to see it twice to soak in the minutiae of Tarantino's stabs at showmanship. But none of that changes the terribly drawn-out scenes taking place on Candy's plantation as Tarantino gradually trounces on his initial exuberance with redundancies. DiCaprio's uneven performance as the main villain never takes on enough definition to seem necessary in the already cluttered plot.
of Screen Crush
‘Django Unchained’ almost feels like three movies in one: Schultz and Django searching for their first targets; the pair getting to know one another during a winter of bounty hunting; and their final assault on Candyland. In addition to the Western and Blaxploitation elements, this is also a road movie, a buddy comedy, a Western spoof, and a riff on the 1975 slave fighting film ‘Mandingo.’ No doubt Tarantino fell in love with the world he’d created — with good reason — and didn’t ever want to leave. But he’s brought a lot to the table here. Maybe he should have taken a page from his own playbook and split this sucker up, ‘Kill Bill’-style.
Obviously you don’t go to a Quentin Tarantino movie for restraint. You want the excessive style, banter, and action. You do, however, go to a Quentin Tarantino movie for his perfectly structured cinematic jigsaw puzzles — and ‘Django’ isn’t that. Some will observe that Tarantino misses his longtime editor Sally Menke, who cut all of his previous films before she tragically passed away in 2010. They might be right. In Menke’s absence, ‘Django’ is grossly distended, like a balloon that’s been blown up to the absolute breaking point.
DJANGO UNCHAINED was written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and stars: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson. In Theaters Christmas Day!
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