When you go to a Quentin Tarantino film, you don’t expect historical accuracy, or even plausibility. Instead, you expect a glimpse of Tarantino’s dark, twisted soul. You expect to see hyperviolence. You expect a few scenes of torture. You expect kitschy credits and ’60s vintage music. You expect uncomfortable, non-politically correct things to happen. But you also expect crackling dialogue, and unexpected humor found in oddball situations, and a few stunning set pieces that simmer with high-wire tension that builds and builds and builds until you almost can’t breathe.
I thought Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds were terrific movies. They showed what Tarantino can bring to the big screen. I was more than willing to take the occasional over-the-top Hitler death scene along with all the really good moviemaking.
Django Unchained isn’t terrific, however. In fact, I’d say it sucks. I wouldn’t watch it again, and I wish I had the 2 hours and 40 minutes I spent in the theater squirming at my latest exposure to Quentin Tarantino’s weirdness. It’s overlong and apparently unedited and, even worse, it’s really kind of boring after you become desensitized to all the blood and guts. Only one scene, where members of an early version of the KKK debate the quality of the hoods they’ve been provided, has the kind of witty, hilarious dialogue that made Tarantino famous. But as for the Tarantino hyperviolence — well, prepare to be drenched in it, and in the sickest forms imaginable. You’ll see great geysering gouts of blood by the gallon. You’ll see dozens of people blasted to oblivion and screaming in agony. You’ll see a captured slave torn apart by dogs, slaves whipped and branded, slaves tortured and beaten to death with a hammer. And you’ll hear the “n” word, time and time and time again. I kept thinking to myself: “What’s the point of all of this?” And I concluded that there was no point, really.
This movie has quite a cast — Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, and Leonardo DiCaprio, among many others — and they turn in good performances, I suppose . . . but it’s hard for me to get past all the violence and the feeling that the movie really somehow cheapens and exploits the entire appalling history of slavery in America. When I left the theater, I felt like I needed to take a shower. I also found myself wondering if the fountain of Tarantino’s creativity has run dry, and his only response is to just try to shock.
With the number of recent, real-life hyperviolence incidents we’ve experienced in this country, I also find myself wondering about Hollywood. Do we really need to make so many movies where corpses could be stacked like cordwood, and the message is that one man with a gun can kill all of his enemies and right all the wrongs by blowing his enemies to Kingdom Come?