“DJANGO UNCHAINED” My rating: C (Opens wide on Christmas Day)
165 minutes | MPAA rating: R
As a big fan of Quentin Tarantino, it gives me little pleasure to confess that “Django Unchained” gave me little pleasure.
Tarantino, who spent his formative years as a video store clerk immersed in cult cinema, has made a career of taking cheesy filmic subgenres and elevating them into something like high art through the sheer transformative genius of his imagination.
Here he tackles two chestnuts from the cinema cellar.
First there are the Italian “Django” movies (there are at least 30 of them) about a surly drifter in the Old West who leaves behind whole towns of festering corpses.
More importantly, “Django” references the mid-‘70s blaxploitation movie. But instead of raising the genre to a new level, Tarantino seems content to kick around in the basement.
“Django” isn’t so much a clever comment on blaxploitation as it is a genuine blaxploitation film with all the usual atavistic violence and cartoonish drama intact.
It is technically more sophisticated than the films it emulates, but not much deeper. And while it contains enough subversive ideas about race to keep the thesis mills churning out papers for the next decade, it never becomes a satisfying dramatic experience.
Initially, at least, “Django Unchained” looks like “Inglourious Basterds” redux. Both films are minority revenge fantasies. In “Basterds” (2009) Tarantino cleverly hypothesized a group of Jewish-American commandos who succeed in assassinating Adolf Hitler.
In “Django” a slave in the antebellum American South becomes a gunfighter and kills a lot of white racists on the way to rescuing his wife from the clutches of a sadistic plantation owner.