A couple of days ago I saw the end of an odyssey of automotive problems which had bedeviled my friends and family. A stolen car was recovered, and I finally got a replacement door lock for my own vehicle. While the lock was being installed I decided to go see a movie, the only one showing was Django Unchained. I did not intend to see this movie, it looked too brutal, but I had time on my hands so I bought my ticket and sat down. Fully expecting, and receiving huge doses of violence and racism.
The movie gets off to an interesting start, the soundtrack isn’t that great, and the movie let’s you know this right away. Not long into the story a slave trader gets his head blown off and another slaver is pinned under a dead horse. So, yeah, I can’t help but feel that this script started out as the movie version of the rejected Chapelle’s show skit, The Time Haters where a slave overseer is shot. Just because he is a slave overseer.
Personally I have a slightly complicated relationship with the old south. My father was raised in Texas and he held Abraham Lincoln in very low regard. On the other hand I detest slavery, I think it’s one of the worst things that humans do to each other. I think a slaver is one of about six types of people who I would have few qualms with dropping the hammer on. But this movie only takes one small, but very well done moment to consider the all important question that any slaveowner has to live with. “Why don’t the slaves just take their freedom and kill us all?”
As for the rest of the movie, well… The acting was superb, especially in the cases of Samuel L Jackson, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio. Although when Tarantino showed up for his traditional cameo he was speaking in a thick Australian accent. Was there a lot of Australians running around in the deep south before the civil war? I really don’t know.
A great amount of expense was put into making the movie look authentic, with one notable exception. The guns were mostly period correct, but repeating weapons were rare and expensive birds at that time. This movie makes it look like everyone and their horse had Remington New Army revolvers and Henry rifles. Also at one point I could see the Italian proof marks on a Stainless Steel New Army replica. But I am willing to grant that exception, you probably can’t make a Tarantino movie without repeating weapons. At least Tarantino doesn’t make the classic Hollywood goof of showing a rifle firing 8 million times without reloading.
The 2 big problems I have with the movie isn’t the violence, it isn’t even the length. It’s the torture scenes, which are liberally sprinkled throughout the movie. I know the antebellum south was an insanely brutal place, but what is shown in this movie was too much for me to handle and I think I have a higher tolerance to torture than some people. Fortunately the torture scenes don’t drag on for ridiculously long times.
The other thing that I disliked about this movie was Jamie Foxx, I never much cared for his work. But in the wake of his participation in the Demand A Plan! video he comes across as a hypocrite par excellence. An overarching theme of this movie is that the difference between a Freeman and a Slave is that a Freeman is armed.
[Little side rant here, as I mentioned on the last LRN Live Call In Show. I understand that the federal government wants our guns, but can you panic buyers please knock off the panicking for a little while! Some manufacturers of autoloading rifles and magazines are backordered for the next 2 years! Go buy a Remington 700 or a Ruger American rifle chambered in one of the big magnum calibers, perhaps a decent pistol to go with it. The gun shops I have been to still have plenty of those. Something like that will be quite effective when the godless gun grabbing clown armies come for your lawfully owned property.]
So in conclusion if you think you can handle lots of branding, whipping, a scene where a man is dangled, naked, upside down. And the hypocrisy of Mr Foxx then Django Unchained will be worth your time. Personally I give it a 3 out of 5, though it is only the superb acting of Jackson, DiCaprio and Waltz that drags it there.