Saturday, December 29, 2012
There's a lot to walk away from DJANGO UNCHAINED feeling jazzed about by. There's enough raucous violence, meaty lines of dialogue, beautiful landscapes, and solid acting to know you are in good hands. There are plenty of moments that I thought worked wonders. But it's sloppily assembled and executed and the writing is sub-par by Tarantino's very lofty standards. This is a guy who I think can write a scene better than just about anyone in the business. When he's in the zone, he's practically untouchable. The dinner table scene at Candieland is one of the best in the film in terms of tension and dramatic conflict (and is elevated by Dicaprio's very game performance). But it doesn't carry the threat or punch it should, mostly due to how quickly it is resolved. Candie has been insulted and is wielding a hammer like a mad man and all he wants is his 12 thousand, which Dr. King and Django have ready for him in their pockets? He takes it from them and the tension fizzles. How is this all he wants, even after being cheated and lied to? There are more instances like this where conceits near the level of deus ex machina are employed to arbitrarily resolve tension or remove characters from harms way. The scene where Django is about to be castrated and then saved at the last second is one; Django's ability to convince the Australians not only to release him from captivity but inexplicably hand him a gun is another. Tarantino too often seemed to be rushing himself out of scenes in the writing process instead of constructing them more methodically (as he did excellently in BASTERDS).
Your review of DJANGO is fantastic, Brandon. I think I disagree with you on how far it actually is from masterpiece territory, but I couldn't agree more with you about how inflated the ending is. If the film had ended with Dr. King and Django going out in one final blaze of glory, the film would have been so much tighter and more emphatic. Instead, it drags itself out and utilizes too many ridiculous scenarios for Django to escape from. I think by the time Tarantino stepped on screen in his atrocious accent, my eyes began to roll. Casting himself was a huge misstep that only heightened how long the film had allowed itself to linger and how silly it had gotten. He's absolutely terrible in the role, and the sight of him pulls you out of the film completely. This last 20 minute stretch is the worst in the movie, no question.
Also, just a quick note: when I wrote that none of the emotion or the threats seemed real, I was decrying the excessive comedic tone of the piece, which made it hard to take much of anything seriously. Some of the humor works but just as much of it falls flat or drags itself out too long (e.g. hood scene). I guess if one were expecting a comedy, this silliness wouldn't feel all that egregious, but I was expecting something a little more operatic and intense à la BASTERDS or KILL BILL. I think one big problem here is that we have finally been given a proper Tarantino spaghetti western and there is less Leone influence in it than in KILL BILL. I'm sorry but I can't help but feel a little disappointed by that.