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Unchained…And Still Leash-worthy!!

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

OK, let’s be clear at the outset. This is a Quentin Tarantino film. Everyone expects carnage, bloodshed, bullets, wicked performances and some witty dialogues. And you get all of that…and much more…in DJANGO UNCHAINED, the latest offering from QT. People get shot left and right, straight and crooked, up and down, once and multiple times…and even after they are long gone!!

The dialogues are witty enough…and clever. The performances are up to par, with Samuel Jackson being gleefully despicable and Leonardo DiCaprio stealing every scene he stars in. We see a side of Leo that we would love to see more often…the slimy villain, with his child-like smile and a snake-like charm. Infectious yet poisonous. Hillarious yet Hateful. His “Calvin Candie” is easily amongst the best performances of the year.

QT is a Master of his Domain. He knows very well what his audience likes and expects him to deliver. And he does all of that in abundance here…QT-style. Hell, even his character actors get their two minutes of fame. Don Johnson stars in the best scene of the film, with a group of bumpkins and another equally talented actor who also puts in a cameo. It is a hilarious scene (with an undercurrent of a seriousness)…something that only QT could pull off.

And of course, there’s that unmistakably awesome soundtrack and background score. Where in the world does Tarantino come up with songs that are a perfect fit for every situation in his films? Right from the title track, which reminds us of all the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns that we have seen over the years, upto the climactic track that is worthy of Django’s actions…every single song fits like a perfect glove.

So what doesn’t work? What’s the gripe? For starters, it’s the proverbial Third Act Lag. I’m a huge fan of QT’s “build-up” scenes, where his protagonists sit down and quietly discuss matters at hand, using long, witty, often funny and seldom unworthy dialogues. Before the eventual mayhem kicks in, that is. Remember the introductory scene of Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds” or the final meeting between Bill and The Bride in “Kill Bill: Vol. 2”. It was a pleasure watching a master director at work, building the suspense and taking it to its crescendo, before unleashing the ultimate blood-soaked payoffs that we all paid our money for and bought the movie tickets, in the first place.

However, with Django, the build-up goes into tedious-land. I’m not sure what point QT wants to prove, but he takes way too long for the “festivities” to commence and turns a 2:10 hour Western into a 2 hour 45 minutes long conversation. Had he kept the back-and-forth exchanges between the characters to a manageable level, this would have been a completely different experience.

And then there is the QT familiarity that has slowly begun to take hold. God Bless Him that he only makes a film every 3-4 years. Lest the “Been there…Done that before” feeling would have kicked in a long time ago. Over the years, Tarantino has butchered people by covering most of the action film genres one could possibly think of. From the Mafia (“Pulp Fiction”, “Reservoir Dogs”, “Jackie Brown”) and slasher flicks (“Grindhouse / Death Proof”) to the World War (“Inglourious Basterds”), from Vampires (“From Dusk Till Dawn”) to Martial Arts (“Kill Bill”) and finally to this one…a Western….there is hardly anything that has been left untouched. Maybe a Space Station vengeance saga is what he needs next….with human blood and guts getting splattered in space and circling the Earth…gravity-free!!

But I want him to REALLY surprise me the next time. The settings may have been different, but I have seen it all now…umpteen times. Even the dialogue delivery is becoming all too familiar because we know why someone is mouthing those profanities…politely…and how it is ultimately going to end. Maybe I complain because I found the film too long. Had it been shorter, I would have enjoyed it more and praised it more.

Fans going out to watch a QT film will not be disappointed because DJANGO UNCHAINED is a 100% Quentin Tarantino film. Whether they walk out feeling a wee bit extra tired than usual, as I did, after spending three hours in the theatre, is another question. (Even the damn previews before the movie, which I usually love sitting through, went on and on…the Weinsteins must have made a lot of money on that section as well.)

Django, without his chains, is a fun watch. But had his creator used a small “leash” and wielded a tighter grip on the running time, seeing Django in action would have been a glorious watch.

(*** out of *****)

Categories: Hollywood