*Actor Jamie Foxx may have gotten his hand slapped for the SNL stunt about “killing all the white people,” but that’s exactly what he gets to do in the new Quentin Tarantino spaghetti-western-slavery flick, “Django Unchained.”
In the movie, the freed slave morphs into a skilled take-no-prisoners, spare no ‘Massa gunslinger; thanks to his suave but deadly German mentor, Dr. King Schultz, played with exquisite panache by Christoph Waltz, in this offbeat, Tarantino-erected, tour de force.
In the film, a bounty hunter (Waltz) arrives in the dead-of-night, wearing a very stylish wide-brimmed hat, and driving a rickety old wagon with a huge tooth on top. This “dentist” is on a mission: to hunt down and capture the murderous Brittle brothers; who have a price on their head. He stumbles upon Django’s chain-gang and, with charm that makes it appear he is in the wrong movie, asks the two rednecks in charge if he can purchase Django. The fun begins after they say “No.” He enlists the help of Django (the “D” is silent) played to a “T” in all his manifestations – by Foxx, who he promises to pay and set free after the dead or alive capture. The two begin their incredible odyssey throughout the sleepy towns and in the interim, as Django becomes more comfortable with the union, and begins to hone his skills, he reveals that he wants to find his wife, Brunhilde von Shaft. Yep, that’s her name (played with quiet dignity, beauty and poise by Kerry Washington). Originally named by the German mistress she once cared for, who also taught her to speak German, she later became known as Broom Hilda.
As it turns out, Django and his wife were once brutally beaten by the Brittle brothers when they tried to escape a previous owner. They were intentionally separated in slave trade.
Foxx is a sight to behold as he becomes more confident with his newfound freedom. And its all laid out for you to witness starting with the “costumes” he chooses when given the opportunity by Shultz to do so. But when he gets it right, everything starts to move in a different direction and courage has a new name: Django
Things get both interesting and complicated when the two happen upon Candyland, the infamous plantation owned and operated by Calvin Candie (played to the inth degree by Leonardo DiCaprio). Together with his HNIC, Stephen (You’ll hate Samuel L. Jackson in this movie he’s so good!). Candie entertains himself by training slaves to fight each other to the death as a sport. And Stephen, who raised him from a young tyke, would die for him. He is the house n*gger everyone has heard about throughout history; Massa’s eyes, ears, and everything in between. You will find yourself sucking your teeth in the parlor scene as the door opens, with his Massa entering, and there he is seated, sipping on a whiskey, waiting to make a big reveal.
There is no denying that this is an incredibly hard movie to watch. Sensitive subject matter notwithstanding, exemplified by Tarantino’s in-your-face, overblown fascination with revenge, everything blood and gore, and the dynamics of the black-white experience. Still, as per usual, Tarentino manages to weave threads of brilliance throughout his movie; and in the most peculiar places you may feel emotions you can’t quite explain. Even through the blood and gore, the bond between Django and Shultz is undeniable; as is the level of importance Django’s mission – to find and rescue Broom Hilda – becomes to Schultz, whose actions at a crucial time become selfless. And even through the fear of possible death, the love between Django and Broom Hilda can’t be destroyed. It’s not that these things happen. Its how they happen.
If you’re being honest with yourself, no matter your race, you won’t be able to deny: the man’s got skillz.
If black audiences go to see this film without prejudging it, (not easy to do whenever slavery comes into play) or without the mindset of what they think it should be, they might get more out of it…and even, be surprised. Then again, it may be the type of movie you either love or hate…no in-between. Whatever your experience, mine is, I plan to see it again.