(US - 2012)
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington, Don Johnson, Dennis Christopher, Walton Goggins, Laura Cayouette, David Steen, Dana Gourrier, Nichole Galicia, James Remar, James Russo, Russ Tamblyn, Amber Tamblyn, Don Stroud, Tom Wopat, Bruce Dern, M.C. Gainey, Cooper Huckabee, Doc Duhame, Jonah Hill, Lee Horsley, Ted Neeley, Zoe Bell, Michael Bowen, Tom Savini, Robert Carradine, Michael Parks, John Jarratt, Quentin Tarantino, and with the friendly participation of Franco Nero. (R, 165 mins)
Perhaps cognizant of the fact that the likelihood of lightning striking twice with another reinvention of cinema along the lines of 1994's PULP FICTION is slim, Quentin Tarantino has spent the last 15 years content with being a mad scientist DJ of sorts, fusing various genres and making each new film an homage to the cult cinema of his past. JACKIE BROWN (1997) was his love letter to Blaxploitation; the two-part KILL BILL (2003/2004) his tribute to martial-arts films; DEATH PROOF (2007) his '70s drive-in/car chase throwback; and INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009) his spin on WWII movies. DJANGO UNCHAINED is Tarantino's take on spaghetti westerns, namely Sergio Corbucci's DJANGO (1966), but reimagined as a pre-Civil War slavery/revenge saga. Like most Tarantino films after JACKIE BROWN (maybe his most restrained, disciplined film and one that just gets better with each passing year), DJANGO UNCHAINED is guilty of unabashed self-indulgence on the part of its creator, but it's filled with such inspired enthusiasm, crackling dialogue, and a heart-on-its-sleeve love of movies that its appeal--so long as you can get by the splatter and the constant barrage of racial slurs--is positively infectious. Tarantino's films of late aren't perfect and one could argue that there's some regression from the surprising maturity of JACKIE BROWN. But really, if he just kept trying to top PULP FICTION, he'd fail miserably. Films like BASTERDS and DJANGO UNCHAINED may not be reinventing the wheel (though they may try to reinvent history), but there's no denying that they're distinctly Tarantino and couldn't have been made with the same wit, style, and passion by any other director. Flaws and indulgences aside, DJANGO UNCHAINED is a captivatingly unhinged, over-the-top blast.
Luis Bacalov, Ennio Morricone, and Riz Ortolani, but also songs by Rick Ross, James Brown & 2Pac, and even Jim Croce, and the effect, while jarring, actually works. DJANGO UNCHAINED is an insane, freewheeling mash-up of cult movie/spaghetti western/exploitation madness that could only be a Quentin Tarantino film. He may not have another game-changer like PULP FICTION in him, but he really doesn't need one. There's nobody who does what Tarantino does with such unbridled glee and on such a grand scale. DJANGO UNCHAINED isn't his best film, but like most of his work (except for that dreadful first half of DEATH PROOF), it will likely prove to be an endlessly rewatchable one, and that'll do just fine.