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dir-scr Quentin Tarantino
prd Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone, Stacey Sher
with Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L Jackson, Kerry Washington, Don Johnson, Dennis Christopher, Walton Goggins, Laura Cayouette, Jonah Hill, Tom Wopat, Franco Nero
release US 25.Dec.12, UK 18.Jan.13
Wayfaring strangers: Waltz and Foxx
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
With a wildly uneven combination of comedy and violence, this energetic romp keeps us engaged with snappy characters and unexpected plotting. But even with its intense themes and complex revenge storyline, the film feels unusually lightweight for Tarantino.
In 1858 Texas, bounty hunter Dr Schultz (Waltz) captures fugitives dead or alive. Usually dead. Then he offers the slave Django (Foxx) a deal: if he helps Schultz find three outlaw brothers, he can have his freedom. So they become friends and colleagues, and after Django is freed, Schultz offers to help liberate his enslaved wife (Washington) from Mississippi plantation owner Calvin Candie (DiCaprio), who runs a ring of slaves who fight to the death. So they plot an elaborate bluff involving these fighters. But Candie's butler Stephen (Jackson) smells a rat.
The film is held together by Waltz's charismatic turn as a smart guy operating just inside the law. His chemistry with Foxx is perfectly played, so much so that Foxx is allowed to cleverly shift Django into the spotlight for the blood-soaked climax. In other words, this is yet another beautifully constructed screenplay by Tarantino that plays with movie genres while telling a riveting, twisty story packed with people who could each have a movie made about them.
Everyone in the cast gets a chance to shine, including DiCaprio's gleefully unhinged sadist and Jackson's darkly vicious servant. It's also fun to see where-are-they-now stars like Christopher as Candie's lawyer, Wopat as a befuddled US Marshal and Johnson as the leader of a riotously hilarious KKK raid that wouldn't have been out of place in Blazing Saddles. There's even an extended cameo for iconic Spaghetti Western actor Nero, who played the title role in 1966's Django.
But then this is what we expect from a Tarantino film. Where this one wobbles is in its tone, which veers randomly from cheesy slapstick to racism-fuelled horror, while the filmmaking itself shifts from gritty realism to overlit pastiche to spectacular epic vistas. All of this done with skill and artistry, while knowingly playing with genre conventions. And it's in the detail that the film gets under our skin, such as the tiniest smile in the corner of someone's mouth. Indeed, Tarantino is a filmmaker who never misses a trick.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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