Capping off The Weinstein Company press presentation this evening was what was arguably the longest look of the trio of films they unveiled, Quentin Tarantino‘s “Django Unchained.” And for better or worse, it’s pure Tarantino through and through. Longtime fans of the director are going to be thrilled, and for anyone hoping he’s changed his visual approach, or swapped out his longstanding influences for something different, they might be advised to skip this one entirely, even though it will be their loss.
Mixing real locations with what are clearly soundstages, “Django Unchained” makes its debt to Sergio Leone clearly known, but the rest is all QT. The reel we saw opened with Christoph Waltz‘s Dr. King Schultz, traveling through the woods in his mobile medical practice — complete with a giant tooth, hilariously swinging on a spring from the roof — coming across a group of slaves, chained together and being led by the man who owns them. Schultz is stopped and examines each of the black men, before landing on Django (Jamie Foxx) indicating that he’d like to take him with him. A few gunshots later, and the pair on the road.
Overall, this look at the footage presented a basic run through of the plot. Schultz revelas he’s a bounty hunter, strikes a bargain with Django, promising to help free his wife Broomhilda, if he travels with him to various plantations across the land. The Brittle Brothers (played by M.C. Gainey and Cooper Huckabee), the target of Schultz’s hunt and the trio responsible for selling off both Django and Broomhilda, take a larger than expected role in the what we saw along with their boss, Big Daddy Spencer. Played by Don Johnson, he was easily a big surprise, in a role we’ve never seen from him, looking like Colonel Sanders and sporting an outrageously awesome Southern accent. Tarantino’s tendency for stunt casting can have mixed results but he absolutely nails it here. The sequence featuring Big Baddy Spencer was one of the highlights of everything we saw — he’s going to be stealing scenes for sure.
Which leads us to Leonardo DiCaprio as the main baddie, the slave owning, whorehouse-running Calvin Candie. With some truly digusting teeth and privy to dropping the n-bomb as often as breathing air, he’s delightfully the most wicked Southern gentlemen you’re likely to meet. It’s pretty great to see DiCaprio get ugly and he looks like he’s having a helluva time doing it. And watching the trio of DiCaprio, Waltz and Foxx trade off dialogue promises their scenes are going to be loads of fun. And speaking of Waltz and Foxx, they both look solid. Waltz once again looks be having a ball chewing on Tarantino’s oversized character, even if its slightly too similar in feel to his turn in “Inglourious Basterds.” Meanwhile, Foxx plays the badass card and comes back a winner — anyone doubting he could pull this off will be in for a pleasant surprise.
Visually, Tarantino opts for big primary colors — a freed Django wearing an outrageous bright blue silk shirt earned tremendous laughs — but it looks like he’ll be playing with film stock and color shifts as well, as some quick flashback shots, particularly when it comes to the horrible treatment of Django and Broomhilda, goes for a much grittier look.
Featuring his trademark use of anachronistic music — Johnny Cash‘s “Ain’t No Grave” and James Brown‘s “Payback” were among those songs featured — and pitched exactly the way you would expect a Quentin Tarantino movie to be sold. The harsher parts of the movie have been left out for the more lighthearted and action heavy, with some choice one liners (“I like the way you die boy” and “Django…the D is silent”) putting smiles on the faces of the press. This one received the most rapturous reception out of everything shown, and clearly, Tarantino films are becoming an event on their own. We’ll see the results on Christmas Day.