It’s not like I didn’t know what to expect.
Just the name Tarantino is usually enough to let you know what you’re in for. His name has practically become an adjective. (“The tarantino effect was in full force as the spatters of red wine reached every corner of the kitchen.”) Since he burst onto the scene in 1992 with the extremely bloody Reservoir Dogs, his films have become synonymous with over-the-top violence. He stays pretty true to form in his latest, Django Unchained.
The movie follows the adventures of a bounty hunter named King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) who teams up with a slave (Jamie Foxx). King buys Django and frees him, and together they hunt down a variety of criminals, all the while looking for Django’s wife, Broomhilde, who was sold to another plantation. Tarantino likes to mix up his styles, so the film pays homage to spaghetti westerns with a number of anachronistic, contemporary touches thrown in as well. I’m not sure if “homage” is the right word here, because to me if seemed like a really violent remake of Blazing Saddles. With the duo of Foxx/Waltz as a stand-in for Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder, the mixed race duo encounter overt racism and over-the-top bad guys. Even the comedy is slapstick, as a group of KKK members ride to lynch Django but have to abort the mission because they can’t see out of the eye holes of their hoods. I would have sworn that the voice coming out of one of the masked Klansman was Slim Pickens, who was in Blazing Saddles but died about 30 years ago. Broomhilde even speaks German, a plot point that figures into her rescue, although at no point is she as tired as Madeline Kahn.
There are differences between the two buddy flicks, of course. Blazing Saddles has show tunes, racism, and ten minutes of farting around a camp fire. Django Unchained has whippings, racism, a man torn apart by dogs and a body count higher than the number of time they use the n-word. (which is 110).
There has been a lot of talk lately about violence in films and video games and whether or not it influences the general public, particularly the 18-24 year old male audience it’s geared toward. Personally, I don’t see how there can NOT be a connection, but I’m sure there are studies that will argue it either way. It’s the old question “Does art imitate life or is it the other way around?” I think the whole thing is starting to blur into one big, bloody mess, because when I watched the last third of the Django Unchained climactic revenge scene, with bodies nearly cut in half and blood spurting high in the air and covering nearly every surface, a thought flashed into my head that was pretty horrifying: I wondered if that’s what the classroom at the Sandy Hook Elementary School looked like after the massacre? I didn’t really care much about the end of the film at that point – I just wanted to get out of the theatre. My son said that he had a similar reaction to Zero Dark Thirty – the non-stop machine gun fire made him extremely tense because he kept imagining someone coming into the theatre and repeating the scene that happened in Aurora. Will constant real-life violence eventually influence filmmakers to go in a different direction, or will they simply keep trying to top themselves, as Tarantino does, until we are all so numb to the carnage that we don’t even notice it anymore?
I don’t have very high expectations that things will change, as long as there is an audience that will pay to watch any of the Saw movies. But might I suggest an alternate ending? Perhaps, just as things are about to explode at Leo DiCaprio’s plantation, they could all run out in tuxedos and sing:
“Throw out your hands,
stick out your tush!
Hands on your hips,
give them a push!
You’ll be surprised. You’re doing the French mistake. Voila!”
Where is Dom DeLuise when you need him?
Barf Bag Rating: ZERO BAGS for the film, FOUR BAGS for the content
My favorite part of Django was at the very end, after they had killed about hundred or more people, they put up a credit that read “No horses were harmed in the making of this film.”
Also, just FYI, the Django Unchained Action Figures are no longer available, because that was such a good idea in the first place.