Quentin Tarantino has done it again. He has made yet another movie that I totally love. He has done this many times with me. As a director, he has only a handful of mainstream films, but some of the great ones include "Reservoir Dogs," "Pulp Fiction" and my number one movie of 2009, "Inglorious Basterds." He was also a "special guest director" on a cool movie named "Sin City" too. He did let me down though with the films "Kill Bill: Volumes 1 and 2"... and I look forward to being let down again when "Kill Bill: Volume 3" comes out. (Yup, I just read that it has been announced, which means pre-production is on the way.) I surely hope it doesn't let me down, but I just didn't dig the first two. Either way, I'll be seeing it because it's a Tarantino film.
Today, Tarantino has a new film out in theatres. It's a spaghetti "southern" (not a western) called "Django Unchained." And much like his other movies, it is filled with big name actors, big bang explosions, and big time controversy that follows it. Hell, it wouldn't be a Tarantino film without controversy, right? Look at "Basterds." That movie just totally blew up the history books and totally re-wrote them the way he wanted to. (And the way I, along with many other people wished it had happened.) He made the fictional character in that film, Col. Hans Landa, the most vicious nazi war criminal ever placed on this earth. From what I hear, even Adolph Hitler himself was appalled by him.
But that's what Tarantino does. He writes his characters with so much passion, such fire and brimstone, such fervor and gusto, that you just can't help but fall in love with them. Or absolutely hate them. Either way, you are enthralled by his characters.
And that's what happens with "Django Unchained." And this film undoubtedly comes with its controversy.
The story begins in the year 1858. A dentist named Dr. King Schultz has turned away from his profession for the more profitable occupation: Bounty hunter. Schultz scours the South in search of criminals running from the law in hopes of catching them, bringing them to justice, and receiving their reward. Schultz needs some help capturing a slew of three brothers running from the law. See, there is a hefty bounty on these three men, and Schultz wants it. One problem, old Schultzy doesn't know what they look like. Schultzy needs help, and to make a long story a little less long, he purchases a slave who knows what the brothers look like... and the name of that slave? Well, Django was his name-OH!
Schultz makes Django his deputy, and they go a-hunting. They find the brothers at a plantation and well, they get two of the three men (via a lead sandwich). The third one tries to get away but Django throws a whooping on him so bad I thought MY skin was going to shred off. I haven't seen someone whipped that bad since Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."
The story moves on to finding Django's wife Broomhilda, who was slave traded to Calvin Candie. Candie is a terrible man all gung-ho into watching slaves fight one-on-one in what is called "mandingo" fighting. This is a terrible sport. It's not even a sport, it's just a barbaric ritual that the racist plantation owners like to gamble on for fun. Trust me, it's gross. But not as gross as everything else going on in this movie.
Anyway, Schultz and Django find his wife and start to barter with Candie. But not for the wife, but instead, for a mandingo fighter. You see, Schultzy and Django are pulling to wool over Candie's eyes. They're giving Candie the old rope-a-dope. Unfortunately, Candie's house slave Stephen, figures this out and all hell breaks loose.
I've said enough, but not TOO much. Now go see the movie.
Let's get to the meat and potatoes of this film. The controversy and the actors.
First the actors. I'm just going to rattle them off, so keep up.
Django is played by Jamie Foxx. From the people I read that were up for the part, I think Tarantino made the right choice. Will Smith and Terrence Howard (and maybe Ben Foster) were also looked at, but I think that Foxx's personality carried over to the character quite well. Plus, they needed a black man for this role, and, as much as I think Ben Foster would've been great as this character, I just think that he may have been too white.
Calvin Candie was played by LEO! (I can hear girls passing out on the floor right now.) That's right, Leonardo DiCaprio played (from what I can remember) his first truly "evil" character. And like I said before, you may hate Tarantino's characters, but you definitely appreciate them. DiCaprio delivers a whale of a performance as a racist plantation owner... who at times didn't even know he was being racist. Now, if he was offered the role, (much like Ben Foster) I think that Denzel Washington could have done great things with this character, but I think he would've been just too black.
Stephen, (Candie's house slave) was played by Samuel J. Jackson. What a talented actor this man is! He is made up to look very old, and once you see him portraying his character, you forget it's Jackson under there. He played an Uncle Tom (I hope that isn't racist, but if it is, I am sorry) who just lives for pleasing his master, all the way to the end... even when faced with death. Both blacks and whites alike will hate this character. That just goes to show you how good of a job Jackson did with this role.
Kerry Washington played Django's wife, Broomhilda. This young lady is beautiful. I only recognized her from one other movie I've seen. She was THE THING's girlfriend in "Fantastic Four." And although she was great in the times she was onscreen, her role wasn't big enough for me to truly appreciate her.
And last, but certainly not least, Dr. King Schultz. Schultzy was played by none other than "Basterds" Col. Hans Landa himself, Christoph Waltz. No one could've played that vicious nazi better than Waltz did, and the same goes for this character. This time Waltz is playing a good guy. No wait, a great guy! He isn't a racist, AND he's up for helping out the slaves... especially Django. The way Waltz delivers his lines makes me immediately think of a man with intellect. And that intellect made his character in this film that much cooler. Hard to believe this man is just coming into America's life. He has been an actor in Germany for 30 years, mostly TV roles and theatre. Looks like Tarantino plucked him out of Europe and has given him to me! (I mean, to us!) Either way, he's a dynamite actor who deserved the Oscar he received for "Basterds," and hopefully another nod for this film. I like having this guy around Hollywood. Thank you Quentin.
Those are just some of your actors. Let's get to some controversy.
Right off the bat, the violence in this film is insane. If you don't like blood and guts, don't see this movie. Between the whoopings and the disgusting mandingo fighting, and the all around mistreatment of the slaves, one may feel their tummy turn. But the heads exploding from gunshots like cantaloupes, the hammer hits, and the gruesome dog attacks, well, all you with weak stomaches will feel like "honking" in the theatre. Personally, this stuff didn't bother me.
But, my oh my, was the language out there! I know that this film takes place in the 1850's and colorful language was aplenty, but my Lord, I've never heard the N-word used so much at one time. (Maybe in a DMX song, but that's it.) The word bothers me terribly, but I knew how to separate it from real life. I just had to keep telling myself that this is just a movie and it was used regularly during those times. After a while I got used to it and I just let the movie take me to where it wanted me to go. I do not have any remorse towards Tarantino for writing the film this way. It's how it was back then, and it fit the film. I liked it.
So, you can see why this film would be controversial to some people. Some people don't like excess blood and guts. A lot of people don't like dogs ripping peoples arms off. And MANY MANY people don't like the N-word. But I like to think that this country is smart enough to separate the movie from the people involved in it. Remember, it's just a film, made to entertain you.
And well, it entertained me immensely.
Matty W. Kelley, Norwood Patch, reporting.
Fun Fact: Leo DiCaprio was the first choice for the "Inglorious Basterds" villian, Col. Hans Landa. Tarantino decided that the role should go to a German speaking actor... and Christoph Waltz landed the role... and eventually the Oscar.
Fun Matty Fact: I've never ridden a horse. But I have ridden an elephant.