2012-12-20 00:00:00

Django Unchained

DJANGO UNCHAINED written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, with Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington and Leonardo DiCaprio. An Alliance Films release. 165 minutes. Opens Tuesday (December 25). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN

Just like Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino's newest genre mashup alternates between gleeful inspiration and ridiculous self-indulgence. And just like that film, it celebrates a certain type of filmmaking without really harnessing its appeal. Basterds appropriated the structure of cheap Italian WWII actioners; Django borrows the title of a series of spaghetti westerns from the same era and slaps it on the Mandingo blaxploitation genre.

Christoph Waltz plays a white-hat bounty hunter version of his Basterds SS officer, this time bringing outlaws to justice in the 1860s American South; Jamie Foxx's Django is a plantation slave he buys and employs as a sidekick and assistant to track certain fugitives. But Django has his own agenda, which involves finding and liberating his wife (Kerry Washington) from the sadistic clutches of a plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).

As with most of Tarantino's recent work, the seeds of a great picture are evident: the premise is strong, Waltz is a joy, and intriguing elements pop up throughout, like Samuel L. Jackson as DiCaprio's crafty major domo. But there is no earthly reason why Django Unchained needs to be two and three-quarter hours long, other than to indulge its director's love of digressions and monologues.

In the end, it just ground me down.

Oscar buzz

Christoph Waltz is all but assured a best supporting actor nomination, although the role's almost a lead. Leonardo DiCaprio might have an outside chance in the same category. Beyond that, the odds of Quentin Tarantino striking a chord with the Academy seem long, unless they put it up for original screenplay out of habit.

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