Quentin Tarantino’s ‘roaring rampage of revenge,’ Kill Bill walked the thin line between what was acceptable as entertainment and downright cringe worthy. It was difficult to accept the splatter fest at the end of Vol I where the Bride meets the Crazy 88 as entertainment. Kill Bill was followed by Death Proof (2007) which didn’t make it past the censors here, even though a terribly bowdlerised version was aired on telly (!).
In 2009, Tarantino announced his return to his Pulp Fiction form with Inglourious Basterds, a crazy, revisionist ride through World War II. And now to mark his 20th year in filmdom, Tarantino comes up with Django Unchained, which again walks the thin line between irreverent and bad taste. Tarantino slips more often mainly because the movie is not as captivating as Kill Bill — we all love revenge sagas which we know is a dish best served cold.
With Kill Bill, Tarantino was paying homage to a type of film, the martial arts movie complete with incomprehensible subtitles, bizarre sayings and weird and wonderful weaponry. However, it was still a pop cultural reference. In Django, by choosing to set his spaghetti western in the antebellum era in the Deep South, Tarantino takes a look at America’s troubled history with slavery.
Quite a few people, including director Spike Lee, have taken offence to Tarantino using slavery for entertainment. Even if you were to keep aside the moralities and look at Django… just as a film, there are indulgent stretches in its 165-minute running time where you just wish things would move on instead of luxuriating in more splattered blood and splintered bones.
Django… tells the story of an unlikely partnership between a German dentist/bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz and Django, a slave Schultz frees. Django wishes to free his wife, Broomhilda, from the brutal plantation owner, Calvin Candie. Schultz suggests a way to go about it which calls for an interest in Mandingo fighting (slaves fight to death for their owner’s entertainment).
The things you would love the film for include the score — Ennio Morricone who composed for Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy has scored an original track. The other major plus is Leonardo DiCaprio as the dementedly charismatic Candie. Glowing like manic Sun King, DiCaprio is deliciously wicked — it is nice to see him without his trademark frown. Jamie Foxx is cool as Django, while Christoph Waltz makes for an avuncular Schultz. Samuel L. Jackson plays the horrid Stephen, Candie’s faithful slave.
All that we have come to expect from a Tarantino film is there — the sudden, casual violence, the long conversations, the contra-casting, the subversions and the mind-blowing score. The only departure from form is to tell a linear story rather than use spiralling and collapsing timeframes. Now maybe it is time for Tarantino to subvert his subversion and yes, make a straight film!
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson
Storyline: A freed slave teams up with a bounty hunter to rescue his wife from a brutal plantation owner
Bottomline: Just about scrapes through