By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 6, 2012 at 8:05PM
A group of journalists in Cannes saw much of the footage from Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" that hit the web in its first trailer Wednesday. The trailer leaked before a planned Fandango launch today. The Weinstein Co. and Sony are partnered on the film which is still in mid-production and is set to finish in mid-July for December 25 release.
This means the provocative "Django" won't have the benefit of the fall film festival circuit. A movie like this could use some careful handling and set-up from critics and media, to educate audiences on what to expect. How critics and smart-house audiences will respond is anyone's guess. This is not your ordinary movie to sell overseas or domestically -- or to the Academy. (I will not be surprised if the movie gets pushed back out of 2012.) But when Tarantino breaks the rules with style and panache, critics and audiences follow.
What the trailer reveals is that while Tarantino has described the film as a "southern," Weinstein Co. is selling this as a bang-up western, packed with physical comedy and bloody action and hell-bent revenge. And yes, it looks like a classic widescreen Sergio Leone western, even if the setting is New Orleans and Mississippi two years before the Civil War.
We see a sophisticated German, Dr. King Schultz ("Inglourious Basterds" star Christoph Waltz), approach a chain gang and attempt to buy one of the slaves. When the guards don't go along with this idea, he shoots them both and literally releases Django (Jamie Foxx) from his chains. He is now a free man. While Schultz poses as a dentist, with a big molar swaying on top of his horse and buggy, he's actually a bounty hunter. He needs Django to identify some pretty nasty slave drivers he knows only too well, and Django is eager to help him. Don Johnson plays plantation owner Big Daddy; watching Django stalk across the grounds to shoot one of the men who abused him is chilling. He whips another to death. He also wants to find his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who is owned by another piece of work, plantation owner Candie (a beefy Leonardo Di Caprio, with long greasy hair).
Schultz, appalled by southern America's racist ways, tries to protect Django, who blooms under his tutelage and turns out to be a pretty good shot. Tarantino is taking the revenge western to a whole new level as the two bounty hunters shoot their way through the unsuspecting South. It looks like the first Leone-esque section of "Inglourious Basterds," and it's about fighting injustice, except that this time it's not Brad Pitt against the Nazis in World War II--it's an angry black man getting his own back from racist white southerners before the Civil War.
Also starring are Walton Goggins ("Justified"), Spaghetti western star Franco Nero (who starred in the original "Django"), Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony LaPaglia and others.