"Django Unchained": Critics weigh in on Quentin Tarantino film

When diCaprio read the part of Calvin Candie, owner of the plantation Candieland, the concept of the role -- which Tarantino had envisioned for an older actor -- changed considerably: "His daddy's daddy's daddy started a cotton business and his daddy's daddy continued it and made it profitable, and his daddy made it even more profitable. Now, he's the fourth Candie in line to take over the cotton business and he's bored with it," the director said. "He doesn't care about cotton: that's why he's into the Mandingo fighters. But he's the petulant boy prince. He's Louis XIV in Versailles. "So I wanted to really play with that idea, of King Louis XIV, but in the South . . . a fiefdom. He has the power of a king; he can execute people, or do whatever he wants." The Weinstein Company

Quentin Tarantino's Deep South revenge tale "Django Unchained" has arrived in theaters, and is among the films moviegoers have the option to see on Christmas Day.

The spaghetti Western-style film, starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington, is about a freed slave-turned-bounty hunter who sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal plantation owner. It has earned awards buzz (including five Golden Globe nods) but also sparked debate about its depiction of slavery and ample use of the n-word (Spike Lee recently called the movie "disrespectful" and said he will not see it).

Critics have described the film as bold and original, but some reviews criticized the film for being ultra-violent, over-the-top and overly long. Here's what some of them had to say:

Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times: "In 'Django,' Tarantino is a man unchained, creating his most articulate, intriguing, provoking, appalling, hilarious, exhilarating, scathing and downright entertaining film yet." -- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times.

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: "'Django Unchained,' Tarantino's deliriously kicky and shameless (and also overly long and scattershot) racial-exploitation epic, is set in the slave days, and among other things, it's a low-down orgy of flamboyant cruelty and violence: whippings, a scene in which a man gets torn apart by dogs, plus the most promiscuous use of the N-word ever heard in a mainstream movie."

Richard RoeperChicago Sun-Times: With 'Django Unchained,' Tarantino gives us an American spaghetti Western that's a bloody good time from start to finish."

Richard CorlissTime: "A pastiche that's nearly as funny as it is long (2hr. 45min.), and quite as politically troubling as it may be liberating, 'Django Unchained' is pure, if not great, Tarantino."

Claudia PuigUSA Today: "There's an epic spaghetti Western feel to Quentin Tarantino's latest action/comedy/romance hybrid that is by turns dazzling, daring, gruesome and astonishingly funny."

David GermainAssociated Press: "Granted, there's something gleefully satisfying in watching evil people get what they have coming. But 'Django Unchained' is Tarantino at his most puerile and least inventive, the premise offering little more than cold, nasty revenge and barrels of squishing, squirting blood."

Peter TraversRolling Stone: "There's something here to offend everyone. Revenge fantasies don't leave much room for moral lessons. Django is out for blood. So is Tarantino, but he doesn't sacrifice his humanity or conscience to do it."

Todd McCarthyThe Hollywood Reporter: "The anecdotal, odyssey-like structure of this long, talky saga could be considered indulgent, but Tarantino injects the weighty material with so many jocular, startling and unexpected touches that it's constantly stimulating."

David EdelsteinNew York Magazine: "For all its pleasures, 'Django Unchained' feels too easy, too dead-center in Tarantino's comfort zone. He's not challenging himself in any way that matters. He has become his own Yes Man."

Tell us: Do you plan to see "Django Unchained"?

  • Jessica Derschowitz

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