“This is the first legit bad guy I’ve ever had to play, and it is a fucking horrible [character]; the worst display of humanity I’ve ever read in my entire life. Not even just because of who he was and the racism, but because he is just the most self-indulgent bastard I’ve ever read.”
The western is one of my favorite genres of fiction.
There are many subtleties and also the quick moments of action that decide the date of characters. I also love history to an extent. It was one of the subjects I talked about when I first met my wife six years ago.
This film takes place in a tenuous and unfavorable era of American history: the 19th century, infamous for its legalized slavery of Africans brought into the eastern and southern states by white settlers. DJANGO UNCHAINED takes two of my interests and makes them up for a very good outing and even throws in a Rick Ross song too.
So let’s address the 800-pound gorilla known as the n-word. The NAACP held a “burial” ceremony for the word, once used in common vernacular to address blacks in America, as I learned and can imagine was used very often in the 19th century South to where it was normal. Today, still used though not normal to hear in public. Anyway, I believe that aspect can ring accurate for the time period and location, and it is not sugar coated to appease sensitivities of viewers. Brave move and it works.
The film is about Django, a slave that is freed by a Schultz, German dentist turned bounty hunter, because he needs to find a large bounty however he has never seen his targets, yet the former slave knows their faces. In exchange for assistance, the hunter will help Django find his wife Brunhilde somewhere in the deep South. Of course it’s easier said than done, and in Quentin Tarantino’s style, the path will be brutal, gory and filled explosions, house chases, shootouts that remind me of “The Wild Bunch,” “Red River,” and the Sergio Leone westerns, with a few laughs along the way. Yes, in a movie depicting some hard scenes about the institution of slavery’s horrific aspects from the servitude to the denigration and extreme methods of torture and punishment, there are some humor moments. Not comedy, but humor.
Humor in a heavy film is carried with the same style as its more serious subject matter by a cast that is on their A-game from start to finish. The lead cast and supporting characters really take you to and through this era of America through many different perspectives. The standout for me, if I have to pick one is a tie between Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen, an elder slave that is equal parts self hating and manipulative with a touch of general creep and all around evil. He is one of the best villains I’ve seen.
Tied with Jackson is Leonardo DiCaprio as slave owner Calvin Candie. He described the character as such in Vibe magazine,
I couldn’t have said it better. The performance is wild in that for all the southern charm exuded most of the time, there is an explosive raging monster that embodies what many feel is the slavery era. Just on point.
One last standout… Kerry Washington for her facial expressions alone in handling many of the film’s hardest scenes. Unfortunately she doesn’t get many lines but her face and body language fills in for her speaking in ways lines cannot convey. Her performance elevates the film further into “must-see” territory.
As I said before the entire cast is excellent but those three for me really make movie what it is, beyond being an action packed tribute to the spaghetti western and being one of the most graphic and raw depictions of slavery that I can recall seeing. This ain’t “Roots” people, or even the Catcher Freeman episode from “The Boondocks.”
Now there was one issue I had with the movie… the third act drags and some scenes could have been trimmed to make it tighter and leaner. When you think it’s over, it keeps going and I wonder what was the real point and could it have been established earlier and in less time than the 20 minutes taken? Hindsight is 20/20 and I’m not the director so maybe it was needed but I digress nonetheless.
Before you go, understand that this is not a movie that everyone will like our even be able to handle seeing. It makes no apologies and has zero compromise. For that, you should check out a movie that doesn’t play it safe especially when depicting the ugly of this nation’s history and one slave rising to become the fastest gun in the south.
It’s a cool story bro.