01/04/2013 02:20 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Popcorn Preview: Django Unchained

Film: Django Unchained (2012)
Cast includes: Jamie Foxx (Ray), Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds), Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception), Kerry Washington (Mr. & Mrs. Smith), Samuel L. Jackson (Jackie Brown)
Director: Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill)
Genre: Dark Comedy | Action | Drama | Western (165 minutes)

"Somewhere in Texas" Dr. Schultz catches up with the Speck brothers, who are transporting slaves from the Greenville market. "State your business!" they demand. "There is a specimen I wish to acquire..." (A specimen? Who the hell talks like this? Dr. Schultz, we learn, is a German dentist. Guess that explains the big tooth on top of his carriage.) Anyway, Django is the one Schultz is looking to acquire, but the Speck brothers take issue with his approach. "I'm simply a customer trying to conduct a transaction." Bam. Bam. There's more than one way to conduct a transaction. Bam. Schultz acquires a horse in the deal.

Riding into town, Schultz can't figure out why everyone is staring. "They ain't never seen a nigger on a horse," says Django. They ain't never seen a nigger in a bar either... the owner runs off to get the sheriff. "Alas, we'll have to act as our own bartenders," says Schultz. Over beer, Shultz explains his new profession. These days he's a bounty hunter... "almost the same as slave trading... except I trade in corpses... flesh for cash... the badder they are, the bigger the reward." And that's where Django comes in. Schultz is tracking the Brittle brothers, but he doesn't know what they look like. Django does. In exchange for his help, Schultz will free Django and pay him $25 a head. Before they get out of town... Bam... Schultz earns a quick $200 bounty. Bam. Bam. Bam. It doesn't take long to deal with the Brittle brothers. Schultz soon realizes that Django "is a natural" with a gun and thinks they'd make a good team. "How do you like the bounty hunting business?" he asks Django. "Kill white people and get paid... what's not to like!" So Schultz has a proposition. If Django helps with the bounty hunting business for the season, Schultz will help Django free his wife. To do that, they'll have to outsmart her new owner, Calvin Candie.

Schultz is a really slick operator. But it turns out... Django is a quick learner. There's enough gun violence in the film to make the movie Scarface look like a Disney adventure. While violence is a Tarantino trademark, that's not the only thing that keeps fans coming back. Possibly, it's the dry wit, campy style and great soundtrack. The spaghetti-western genre is such a natural for dry wit, campy style and great music; one wonders what took him so long. Add to that, the issues of slavery in the pre-Civil War South, and it's an explosive mix for a filmmaker with a large supply of fake blood and squishy sound effects. Of course, there are many who take issue... and rightly so... with the political incorrectness and social insensitivity of Tarantino films. If that's you, you'd better skip this one. Some may see a bit of social commentary about slavery in the old South, but that's a stretch. Django Unchained is a long film... nearly 3 hours. Some think it's entertaining from beginning to end, some think it could have been tightened up a bit. The story has many twists and turns... some parts more entertaining than others. "Adult supervision is required," as Candie points out.

4 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
Django earns his freedom by working for a bounty hunter... as part of the deal, they're also going to free Django's wife

Popcorn Profile
Rated: R (Language, Violence)
Audience: Young adults
Distribution: Mainstream wide release
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: Zips right along
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: Rude & crude
Social Significance: Pure entertainment

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Jackie Brown