HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Django Unchained
HTS Overall Score:86
Quentin Tarantino. The name and the image that precedes the name tends to garner wildly opposite opinions. Some abhor him for the wildly gratuitous violence that is prevalent in his films, while the other side adores him for quirky, and most times brilliant, dialogue coupled with his lack of desire to “play by the rules” in the Hollywood hierarchy. It seems that his newest outing is getting a lot of publicity, both good and bad, lately. Spike Jones and a few others are lambasting him with criticism due to the racial subject matter, while others have been praising it to no end. Not only are his fans happy, it seems that the academy awards have given a nod to it as well, giving Christoph Waltz the best supporting actor award, and Tarantino the most original screenplay award. Amusingly enough “Django Unchained” seems to be the odd man out at the awards ceremony. While most of the award nominees are a mass of dramas, political thrillers and the like, we have this lone movie sitting there in the middle. A wild display of gratuitous violence, action, comedy and the like sitting there like the ugly duckling.
Django (Jaimie Foxx), is a plantation slave being sold after he and his wife were caught escaping his master’s plantation. His only hope, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a bounty hunter who happens to be hunting 3 convicted felons who worked for Django’s owner. Realizing that Django could lead him to the prize, he free Django and recruits him as a bounty hunter to help in the job. Dr. Schultz, being German, doesn’t believe in slavery and decides to keep Django on as a partner after the job is done. After hearing about his wife being sold to a different plantation owner as punishment for running away, he takes pity on Django and agrees to help him free his wife. The only problem is that they don’t know where she’s at. Taking a string of jobs that brings them closer and closer to his wife, Django and Dr. Schultz form a bond that transcends race. Finally the prize is at hand. It appears that Django’s wife is a house slave over at Mississippi plantation owner Calvin Candie’s estate “Candie Land” (yes, you read that correctly).
Realizing that Calvin Candie would probably not just sell Django’s wife Broomilda (Kerry Washington) outright, they devise a plan to come in as Mandingo fighting experts (black slaves being used as gladiators basically) looking to buy a prize fighter and scoop her up in the process. The only problem is that Calvin Candie has an old slave named Steven (Samuel L. Jackson) who’s just as wily and conniving as Django and Dr. Schultz. Thus begins a game of cat and mouse where our two heroes must wheedle there where into the confidence of Monsieur Candie all the while staying under Steven’s radar.
You can tell Quentin Tarantino’s obvious obsession with the classic Spaghetti western. He even got the legend Franco Nero’s input on the film while he was working on it. From the blood lettered opening scrawl, to the opening music, you can tell this is a spaghetti western, exploitation flick with all the trimmings. Tarantino is a unique film maker and one I readily admire for his dedication to his craft. Some folks may not appreciate his over the top, cartoon levels of violence that he employs, but his usage of period film stock and fantastic use of dialogue has always won me over. Django is one of his best films in recent years. I would have to compare it to a western version of “Inglorious Basterds”. The tone is there, and with the addition of Christoph Waltz, it’s hard to deny the similarities. The acting was superb. Jaimie Foxx is one of those actors where he’s just decent, or he’s absolutely perfect for a role. In this case, he was spot on perfect. His over the top comedy is reigned in and we’re left with a rugged revenge picture with Jaimie being as cold and heartless as the slavers themselves to get his wife back. As said in the film “welcome to my world, and in my world we gotta get dirty. That’s what I’m doing. I’m getting dirty”. Christoph Waltz is nothing short of sublime. As with “Inglorious Basterds” he steals just about every scene he’s in. With dialogue that just rolls off the tongue effortlessly, his sense of style and humor and an awkward sense of being out of place, his presence just makes you smile. Leonardo Di’Caprio as Calvin Candie is almost as good. His sense of flair for the dramatic and cruelty create character that rival’s Chritoph Waltz’s character. Their scenes together a so perfect that you almost wish they had more screen time, the banter and thinly veiled daggered comments are like two dances, dancing in perfect tandem.
My only real problem with the film had to do with the editing. With the demise of his former editor Sally Menke, we are left with a brand new editor and the results are a bit choppy in some places. It almost seems as if the new editor just wasn’t willing to stand up to the director and say “hey, we really need to trim this down a bit”, instead we get a film that is about 20 minutes too long. Don’t get me wrong, the film is fantastic, but the last 30 minutes could have been trimmed considerably to have an ending that flowed better. The scene with the Australian slavers was dubious at best and was a serious drag to the ending.
Rated R for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language and some nudity
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=11586[/img]Starz/Anchor Bay presents “Django Unchained” in a 2.40:1 AVC encode that is nearly flawless. Quentin Tarantino loves to use film and only film so we’re presented with a nice layer of fine film grain throughout the whole presentation. Given a slightly yellow color grading to replicate the feel of the spaghetti westerns of yesteryear, it pops onto the scene with all the panache and style of the old with the excellent technology of the present. Flesh tones are natural and mesh well with the rich colors. Purples, reds, blues and greens all abound on the screen and varies from local to local. Detail is striking, every pore and crevice of Django is perfectly clear and each beard hair on Christoph Waltz is readily apparent to the viewers. There’s some softness present in several long shots, but nothing too distracting. Mainly a stylistic choice rather than an encode flaw. Black levels are excellent and beautifully rich and inky. Shadow detail is superb even in the darkest of night scenes. No major artifacting or signs of digital tampering was present to my eye. Overall a very good picture and an excellent viewing experience. Bravo to Starz/Anchor Bay.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=11588[/img]The audio track is every bit as excellent as the stunning video score was. Tarantino lights up the soundstage with a beautiful and haunting score, reminiscent of the old Spaghetti westerns that he idolizes so much and influenced him to replicate this genre. Dialogue is crisp and clean, locked in the center channel complimented by an excellent front sound stage. The Surrounds envelope the viewer into the frenetic world of the western, whether it be the thudding of horse’s hooves racing across the terrain or the thunderous sounds of gunfire, the viewer feels right at the center of the action. LFE is loud and powerful throughout, giving a weighty feel to the entire track. Horses thundering, shotgun blasts erupting and the deep weighty feel of the score just ripple with tight clean bass. My only real complaint with the entire audio track had to do with the score. Unfortunately someone decided to record the soundtrack a decibel or so higher than the rest of the movie so sometimes it can feel a little over powering and dialogue is muffled as a result. Had it not been for that slight flaw, I would have given the film a perfect score. The end result was an excellent, albeit marred, soundtrack.
• Remembering J. Michael Riva: The Production Design of "Django Unchained"
• Reimagining the Spaghetti Western: The Horses and Stunts of "Django Unchained"
• The Costume Designs of Sharen Davis
• Tarantino XX Blu-ray Collection Promo
• "Django Unchained" Soundtrack Promo
A divisive Director and a divisive movie, Django has a lot going for it. Tarantino’s trademark dialogue is about perfect here and the actors just mesh on a level that most films just wish their actors would. One of his most mature and polished films to date, it rivals the classics such as Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown for sheer star power and excellence. As for my recommendation, It will have to be two pronged. If you’re not a fan of Tarantino’s previous works, then I’d honestly skip it, since it is rife with all the features that Tarantino fans love. However, if you enjoyed his previous outings, then you’re going to LOVE “Django Unchained”. Mix that in with some awesome video and audio scores and this is a must buy.
Starring: Christoph Waltz, Jaimie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Starz/Anchor Bay
Runtime: 165 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: April 16th, 2013
Buy Django Unchained Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It!
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