Tarantino referred to his previous film, Inglorious Basterds, as his masterpiece. How does one follow up one's own masterpiece and not be a failure? Why, make up your own genre, of course. Westsploitation. Is that a thing? I think Quentin Tarantino just made that a thing. Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz) is a dentist-turned-bounty hunter who needs the help of a slave, Django (Jamie Foxx), who knows what his next marks look like. Freeing Django, Schultz enlists his aid and eventually trains him to be his partner. But when Django reveals that he has a wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who was recently sold off to a new owner, Schultz vows to help Django get her back. But it won't be easy, as her new owner is Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who owns one of the most infamous plantations in the south.

First and definitely foremost... this is one long movie. It's just shy of 3 hours, and it feels it. Don't get me wrong--I'm not saying it's slow or uninteresting. I'm just saying I really felt that 3 hours in that chair.  What didn't help was a moderately slow start. To me, the start of a Tarantino movie is one of the best parts. It's always this slow, deliberate story or conversation. This was perfected, in my eyes, in Christoph Waltz's introduction in Inglorious Basterds. Perfect pacing. Perfect amount of tension and menace and build-up. So here, we get another introduction with Christoph Waltz, so the film automatically sets you up to want a similar brilliance. But, to me, that doesn't happen. Yes, there is somewhat of a discussion that builds up to a moment of shock. But something about it didn't feel very... Tarantino. I didn't have that same thrill at the start that his films always hit off with.

And from there it's pretty much a collection of segments that depend on who the bad guy is at the time. And the film sure does put a fair number of "boss battles" to face throughout. And more often than not, those are the best parts of the film. The last... I don't know... 30-45 minutes--starting from the dinner table scene through to the end of the movie--is purely outstanding. The dinner table scene and the scene near the start of the film when they first ride into the little town and invite themselves into the bar are two of the best performed and written scenes in the film (showcasing Leo and Christoph respectively). Those are some classic Tarantino moments... and I think my biggest problem with the film is that it's nearly 3 hours long and the film doesn't have nearly enough moments like those. Sure, they're sprinkled throughout, some suspenseful and some comical (the KKK masks scene is fantastic, as well). But I felt that, particularly in the first half of the film (prior to Leo and Sam Jackson showing up, and yes, it does take about half the film to get to them), the Tarantino dialogue wasn't up to par. And I often wondered how much of that first half was all that necessary.

All of that being said, however, the second half of the movie more than makes up for any low points the first half might have had. Hell, that last 30-45 minutes alone are worth the price of admission. The violence, comedy, blood, and mix therein is all pretty damn entertaining. Glorious, even.

The acting is all fantastic, as well, from start to finish. Christoph Waltz gives another solid performance for Tarantino. He's no Hans Landa, but he's fun enough. Jamie Foxx has a lot of fun with the titular character. Jonah Hill does show up, but it's barely a cameo. He's on screen maybe five minutes tops and he doesn't say that much. DiCaprio kills it in the dinner scene in particular (and the scene that follows), and prior to that, he shows us he's having fun as a villain. But who steals the show is, of course, Samuel L. Jackson. He has a pretty decent-sized role this time, and he is both hilarious and potentially menacing.

I thought the film had a bit of a rocky start, but it really grew on me as it went on. When the scenes hit, they hit hard and strong. While every moment isn't like a Pulp Fiction or Inglorious Basterds wherein they have amazing dialogues or monologues, there are enough throughout the film that are good enough to eventually make up for it. And the violence is exploitation-level fun and over-the-top. The comedy is great. The acting is superb. Is this Tarantino's best film? No. But that doesn't stop it from being really, really good.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese


  1. Agreed and disagreed. I think we come to about the same place, but just have very different takes on what worked/didn't. I suppose my largest issue with the film is the same I had with This Is 40 or even the one big issue I had with Basterds (the Bowie song): it felt like QT needed to be reined in a bit. Edited (and not just for length; sure, it did feel a bit long, but not so much that it bothered me). So it shouldn't surprise you that I dug the first third quite a bit - that first hour flew by for me, and there were very few Tarantino-isms...until the fucking John Denver song showed up (note: I know it wasn't John Denver, but it might as well have been). And then the weird intertitles...and then something else...and then Tarantino showing up. There were all these things that took me out of the flick.

    But it does have a fuckload to love about it.

    1. I definitely agree that the country song at that one point just flat-out didn't work. I didn't care for that at all, either. It was overall a very strange soundtrack, but I think it worked on the whole (oddly, I think the rap worked the best).

      The first third was fine and dandy, but it had the least amount of the typical Tarantino dialogues/monologues, which are generally what I like most in his films (minus Death Proof). Of course as I said in the review, I *loved* the scene where (spoilers) he shoots the sheriff and has to explain to the marshall and the rest of the town who he is and what he's doing. That felt like a stronger opening than the actual opening to me. I also loved the KKK moment, the dinner scene/skull/freak-out moment, and (of course) the insane shoot-out.

      So I guess my biggest issue with the film is that his fun writing wasn't as strong or as frequent as his past films. What I tried to get off in the review and couldn't was that the film was kind of a collection of brilliant scenes connected by just pretty good, though not quite up-to-par moments.

      But, as you said, I think we pretty much fall in line with our liking (or disliking) of the film... just for different reasons.

  2. The last half of the movie could have been edited a little better. I never thought an editor made that much of a difference but Tarantino's movies have suffered a bit since Sally Menke died. I agree with you the intro to this is not one of his best. Solid Review.


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