"Django Unchained" director Quentin Tarantino has made deliciously "talky" storytelling, devilishly fun ultra-violence and an unapologetic worship of all varieties of theatrical influences his stock-in-trade since "Reservoir Dogs" cut off the collective ear of cinephiles everywhere.
"True Romance" (which he wrote but didn't direct) and, of course, "Pulp Fiction" have remained Tarantino gold-standard bearers ever since their releases in the early 1990s. "Jackie Brown" was embraced by critics but somewhat more cautiously. Both parts of "Kill Bill" were adored, but his half of "Grindhouse" was seen as a bit of a stumble again, although it still rests at a "fresh" 65 percent on Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer. (Yes, a Tarantino "miss" would be considered a critical hit for most).
We're happy to report that "Django Unchained" has thus far wowed film fanatics even more so than "Inglorious Basterds," which earned Christoph Waltz an Oscar for his star-making supporting role. Waltz is back in "Django," but where "Basterds" was a hilariously awesome ret-con of World War II history, "Django" stars Jamie Foxx as a slave fighting for his freedom.
The critical consensus is that "Django Unchained" is QT firing on all cylinders, reminding us why he's so often imitated but never fully replicated. Forbes magazine called it a "masterpiece" and declared it the director's best in "almost two decades."
Here's what the critics are saying about "Django Unchained."
The Genre Worship
"Quentin Tarantino continues his tour of 'disreputable' movie genres with 'Django Unchained,' a boisterous and violent appropriation of tropes from the 1960s spaghetti Western (low-budget European cowboy movies, produced mostly in Italy and Spain) and the 1970s blaxploitation Western (often-angry revenge pictures that examined the Civil War era in general, and slavery in particular, from a post-civil rights perspective). While the movie doesn't take the outrageous narrative leaps of 'Inglorious Basterds,' 'Django' is nonetheless an intelligent thrill ride, zipping along merrily (and bloodily) until it hits the inevitable Tarantino Act 3 Lag. But even the slow bits can't detract all that much from the wealth of trashy pleasures offered throughout." — Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
"When an actor becomes so closely associated with a character as Waltz did with his polyglot Nazi colonel in 'Inglourious Basterds,' it can be a risk for that actor and director to re-team so quickly. But Waltz quickly allays any fears, embodying the role with such exuberant, theatrical flair — amused by the sound of his own voice, smoothing his mustache with a fastidious flick of his fingers — that you can't imagine any other actor doing it. There's joy in Foxx's playing, too, and in his chemistry with Waltz, as he sheds the scarred skin of Django the slave to take on a series of new, more empowering alter egos." — Scott Foundas, The Village Voice
The Racial Overtones
"Tarantino's affinity for black culture and interest in the ways blacks and whites relate always have been evident, but they've never before been front and center to the extent that they are in 'Django Unchained.' Some might object to the writer-director's tone, historical liberties, comic japes or other issues, but there can be no question who gets the shaft here: This is a story of justifiable vengeance, pure and simple, and no paleface is spared, even the good German who facilitates a slave's transformation into a take-no-prisoners hunter of whites who trade in black flesh." — Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
The Final Word
"Get ready to shake, rattle and roll. Quentin Tarantino is back, bringing us a massive overdose of brutal sex, bloodshed, carnage, torture and man's inhumanity to man — and just in time for Christmas. In light of recent real-life tragedies, the timing of a depraved epic called 'Django Unchained' might prove disastrous. A lot of potential moviegoers seeking holiday escapism gift-wrapped as entertainment are already planning to run in the opposite direction. They've had their fill of evil and violence, and enough is enough. This would be a shame, because 'Django Unchained,' clocking in at just under three hours, is exactly what you might expect from the fearless, controversial director of 'Pulp Fiction' — it's overlong, raunchy, shocking, grim, exaggerated, self-indulgently over-the-top and so politically incorrect it demands a new definition of the term. It is also bold, original, mesmerizing, stylish and one hell of a piece of entertainment. My advice is see it and worry about what you've just seen later. One thing is certain: You won't see anything else quite like it any time soon." — Rex Reed, The New York Observer
Check out everything we've got on "Django Unchained."