The “D” might be silent, but the crowd could be heard for miles when Quentin Tarantino let loose with new footage from his forthcoming Western Django Unchained. The latest adage from the twisted genius who brought the world Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and Inglourious Basterds takes his first foray into the pre-1900s with Django, a film about a freed American slave (Jamie Foxx) who sets out to rescue his wife from a sociopathic plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio in a villainous turn). Fans were treated to some footage from the highly anticipated epic, depicting an exceptionally Tarantino take on one of the most infamous eras in U.S. history.
The reel plays like an extended version of the previously released trailers, with additional bits from the first half of the movie. The reel opens with Django (Foxx) walking in the slave line, once again encountered by, Dr. King Schultz (Waltz). The slave owners parading Django about want to know what kind of doctor Schultz is. He points to a giant tooth dangling on the top of his cart. A great visual gag that’s pure Tarantino humor. Once Schultz’s intentions are clear — he wants Django — the slave owners tell the doc to move on. No dice. “Are you pointing your weapon at me with lethal intention?” Schultz fires a bullet into the two gents, exploding one guys head and obliterating the other’s leg.
Cue: Johnny Cash’s soulful tunes, segueing to Django and Schultz’s bigger journey. Schultz wants Django to help him kill three brothers, the same men who kidnapped Django’s wife. But before they can go white man hunting, Schultz teaches the newly-freed man a few tricks of the bounty hunting trade. Here’s a pistol tip: “Smooth is more important is fast. Once you get smooth then you get fast.” Django’s a natural — he takes out a snowman’s eyes and nose with graceful brutality.
We also get our first juicy look at Don Johnson’s Mr. Bennett Don aka “Big Daddy.” Johnson plays him as the over-the-top, hateful ass he should be, sporting a white suit and a Foghorn Leghorn accent. Schultz distracts Don by talking business, while Django goes searching across the plantation for one of the brothers. He finds him whipping a slave and quickly puts the torture to rest. Django’s first big kill and he doesn’t blink. Foxx nails the Man with No Name attitude, but the progression to that seems important to the first half of Django
Tarantino’s sizzle reel doesn’t give too much away — he was only half way through shooting when it was first assembled for Cannes. But it speaks perfectly to what’s in store. The director’s signature, violent style is on full display (there must have been 28 shots of people firing guns in the short snippet of footage), but there’s a powerful emotional arc on display as well. Unlike Inglorious Basterds, which featured multiple storylines that focused more on plot and history than human characteristics, Django emphasizes its lead character’s perspective. One highlight are a set of torturous flashbacks, shot as an oversaturated nightmare. They shake Django’s bones, but it only makes him more focused on his murderous venture.
We didn’t see too much of Kerry Washington or Leonardo Dicaprio, but the latter looks like he’s having a ball. He’s like Waltz in Inglourious Basterds — absolutely insane, but never out of character. Oh, Waltz won an Oscar for that role? You don’t say…
Django Unchained drops later this year, and might be the best adult entertainment of 2012. It’s unforgiving in a way that’s completely unlike the usual Hollywood fare, but expected from Tarantino. If you’re a fan, it’ll be a must see. If you’re not, same thing.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Sony Pictures]