Thursday, 7 February 2013

Django Unchained – Hang on a minute . . . this aint no Western

I am not 18. I am therefore not allowed to legally watch Django Unchained, and, even more illegally, I watched a ‘For Your Consideration’ copy that I have no right to (Thanks, Mikey). But how could I miss out on the chance of seeing Quentin Tarantino’s latest cinematic offering?

Am I a bad person? Am I exploiting an industry that I hold dear to my heart?


Who knows . . . but, in my head, I managed to justify such devilish deeds. My rationale was this; if I write a review for it, then I may well persuade someone who had no previous interest in the film to go see it, therefore paying for my ticket . . . kind of.

But that won’t be as simple as I thought because Django Unchained is not the rip-roaring success I had anticipated.


Throughout his career, Quentin Tarantino has made his name taking other people’s ideas and repackaging them in a shiny and fast-talking post-modernist parcel. His movies feature visual cues, camera angles and now even titles from a selection of great (and less great) movies. He uses his encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema and pays homages some truly obscure films. But there are a few filmmakers he goes back to time after time; including the late, great Sergio Leone.

Along with John Ford and Sam Peckinpah, Leone is probably the greatest Western director of all time, and Tarantino is a known Leone-phile. He’s featured Western elements in all of his films to date, and he obviously loves the genre; the violence, the heroes, the villains and the set-pieces etc. So, surely a Quentin Tarantino Western is a mouth-watering prospect. But, for me, something went seriously wrong.

You see, now he’s finally got a Western canvas to work with, he seems to want to make other genres. Django Unchained doesn't feel like a proper Western. It feels like a below-par Tarantino film wearing a funny hat.

And, I’m not for one moment doubting that there are some great moments in Django. Some of the dialogue-based confrontations absolutely fizz with energy and wit, and Leonardo Di Caprio is absolutely tremendous.

But, when I look back on it; yes, it has some beautiful vistas, a steely cool protagonist, crazy villians, blood-drenched set pieces, the triumph of good over evil, but it seems forced. Instead of a calm and collected cowboy of a film, picture a giggling, spoilt fan-boy jumping up and down on a horses back firing revolvers in the air and shouting ‘yee haaaaaaaa, motherfuckers!!!!’. That is Django Unchained.

. . . Yet I still think it’s better than 80% of the movies that invade our multiplexes week in, week out.

★★★