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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Review: Django Unchained

I saw Django Unchained last week, and my impression was... meh.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a bad movie.  It was entertaining to a degree, and visually it was quite well done.  I was kind of n-weary by the end though.  This is a Tarantino flick, he uses the n-word.  Liberally.  By the end of the movie I came to two realizations.  One:  Quentin Tarantino wishes he was raised in Compton and two: he had a vision of what slavery would have been like if Shaft or Dolomite were around.  And a blaxploitation slavery movie seems a touch redundant, don't you think?

I'm not railing against the use of the word.  I grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn in the 80s and 90s.  For those of you that means something to, yeah.  For the rest of you, it means that I've heard and used the n-word a lot in my youth.  A whole lot.  I'm not as sensitive to the word itself as maybe I should be.  As I got older and realized it wasn't for polite company, I used it less.  And when I finally got the history of it, its intended use, it's actual meaning, I've taken pains to remove it from my vocabulary.  So while, in my humble opinion, Quentin Tarantino using the word as a punctuation mark is a bit on the excessive side and most definitely a turn-off, it wasn't my biggest issue with the movie.

Neither was the gore.  This flick was bloody and violent.  At a time when this country is still reeling from violent acts with firearms, its astounding how casually and frequently people are shot to death.  I mean, this is a Tarantino flick, once again, so we expect to be treated to little bits of brain and skull and pools of blood but... damn.  That said, however, that wasn't my problem with the movie.

My big problem was with the overall concept.  It didn't seem like it in the trailers, but this was essentially Roots set as a Spaghetti Western.  I'm not saying that we need to treat the history of the slave trade with church-like reverence, but the film asks you to make leaps of faith that are a little extreme, such as this one adult slave would be able to instinctively fire a gun, learn to read in three months, track down his wife three states away, and kill a whole house of slave owners.  Come on.

Props to Jamie Foxx, who did a great job portraying the hero in the context of the film.  Big props to Sam Jackson who plays Stephen, "the most hated Negro in cinematic history," as he put it.  Not so much to Kerry Washington, who a friend of mine called Hollywood's highest paid extra.  She didn't talk much but, to quote Django, "she pretty."

Like I said, not a bad flick.  But soft stomachs need not apply.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

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