With the potential demise of HMV and Blockbuster it seems that browsing and hanging around in video stores is going to become a thing of the past, the end of an era for film enthusiasts.
Much has been made of how Quentin Tarantino was one of these video store geeks and pretty much twenty years ago to the day, he became a significant player in film making with the UK release of his first feature. Since Reservoir Dogs (which was indeed a much bigger hit here than it was in the states) Tarantino has directed a string of always interesting, often bold movies. With Django Unchained I can’t help but feel that this little era is coming to an end as well.
That isn’t to say that Django Unchained isn’t good. I’ve enjoyed all of Tarantino’s films and that is still the case but somehow this feels less original, less surprising and less gutsy than his other films.
Tarantino is still an absolute master of dialogue and once again it is a joy to watch his script played out but where before he has written tense scenes that build the tension before explosions of violence, here the words and the action don’t lead from one to the other so well. There is nothing in this film that compares to the cellar bar scene, the strudel scene or the country cottage scene from the glorious Inglourious Basterds and that’s just one of his films. As a result, while the script still sticks out the action seems a little common place. Tarantino’s decision to set the gun fights to contemporary rap music only goes further to make them look like they belong in some other movie.
Another problem is that his characters just aren’t as likeable as they have been in the past. I didn’t care as much about Django as I did Mr Orange, The Bride or Shosana. I invested in Christoph Waltz’s Doctor Schultz a little but he was better as a bad guy. Similarly perhaps I am too much of a fan of Inception and Romeo & Juliet to accept Leonardo DiCaprio as a truly convincing villain.
None of this is to say that Django Unchained isn’t a highly enjoyable film. Tarantino is still one of the few genuine auteurs working in mainstream American cinema but as such I am afraid he has lead me to hope for more. Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Death Proof and all of his films have slightly different tones and styles. Even Kill Bill 2 didn’t follow the model of Kill Bill 1 but I here I think we are getting something very similar to what he has shown us before. Perhaps he has just got to a point where it is his own films he is homaging now.
You might want to wait and pick a copy of this one up from the video shop, just don’t expect to be able to rent it without going on line.
Is this one for the kids?
Of course not. I can’t imagine Tarantino doing a Robert Rodriguez or a Martin Scorsese and suddenly producing a family movie. There is an awful lot of blood being sprayed around but not to the levels of Kill Bill and while it is certainly very violent there is nothing as wince inducing as the knife, sword and razor work of his previous films, almost but not quite.