By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act December 12, 2012 at 3:03PM
- And finally, I'd say that the fact that it was reported (I think we reported on this site as well) that QT was still editing the film as recently as a few weeks ago, literally going down to the wire with it, shows. Because this felt somewhat unfinished and unpolished to me, unlike past Tarantino films. It's not as deft in its handling, and overall production, and I wonder if he really needed more time to polish it off. But the December 25th release date was already set, and, as I assume, The Weinstein Company has it pegged as a potential Oscar contended for next year, in certain categories; and instead of pushing its release date back to the first half of 2013 we could say, giving QT more time to work on it, they were stuck with the already set date, and it may have been too late, and potentially problematic to make a date switch. But this just didn't feel as finished and polished as one would expect from a QT epic.
It's a comical costume opera; less of a Spaghetti western and more of a spaghetti "southern." Those who've seen the original Django, will recognize nods to that film, like the use of that film's theme song at the intro, as well as a cameo by the original film's star Franco Nero; although I should note that the original Django (there were several "knock-offs" that used the name to follow, but none was official) is not a slave revenge narrative, nor is Tarantino's film a remake of Sergio Corbucci's film, as some folks wondered over the weekend, when I mentioned this on Facebook and Twitter. Both films actually don't have a whole lot in common, except for the name, and Django (played by Franco Nero in the first film) is also on a revenge mission, driven by the love of a woman. He's a drifter who drags around a coffin that hides a super-duper machine gun inside of it. It's strongly recommended viewing, if you haven't seen the original yet.
Will you be entertained? I'm sure a lot of you will. It was a mixed bag for me; some great moments scattered about amongst lots of humdrum, considering the subject matter.
I give it a passing grade, but definitely not high marks. It's not quite the realistic, heartwrenching, exceedingly brutal human drama of survival, love and death that it's purported to be by some; but it's also not quite successful as this mish-mash send-up of previous popular genres, in my humble opinion.
I didn't find it controversial; it's as controversial as any previous QT film was considered controversial. Maybe it's just me. But if you've seen enough movies - especially from other countries, outside the USA, where cinema can be far more risque, boundary-pushing, and challenging in a myriad of ways, Django Unchained is relatively tame - especially when you consider that it's a movie about American slavery... Now, let me say that again... Not to imply that gun violence isn't violence, but it's a movie about slavery, and its unimaginable horrors; and the most violent scenes in it involve... shoot-outs... with guns. I certainly wasn't there, but I think I can say that there were probably a few slaves back then who would've gladly taken a bullet to the head and a quick death, over some of the more uimaginable forms of cruelty that countless slaves endured and suffered.
And above all else - if there's one thing that you should take away from all this, despite the backdrop on which this story unfolds - it's still very much a QT movie. His name and everything his name conjures up in your heads when it's mentioned, trumps the fact that it's a slave narrative. He's an "entertainment" filmmaker - obviously a smart, informed one too. But he's not out to affect change in the world, or inspire/incite action against, or for a specific cause, or force you to re-examine the path you've chosen to take in your life. He wants you to walk out of the theater after sitting through 2 1/2 hours of his movies, saying, "fuck yes, that was an awesome fucking kick-ass movie, alright!"
So if you already like his cooking, you'll be satiated; and if you don't already like his cooking, or even the smell of it, then you'll likely walk out of the theater hungry for something else, or something more.
I appreciated the attempt to tell this particular story - one that hasn't quite been told in this manner, and definitely not on this scale. But, having now seen Django Unchained, I'm really now even more curious to see what Steve McQueen does with what I think will be a far more realistic, emotionally and even physically brutal, devastating, warts and all film about the institution of slavery, in Twelve Years A Slave - based on what we know of both films thus far.
If you missed Sergio's thoughts on the film, posted earlier today, you can read them HERE.