Less has never been more for Quentin Tarantino, but a little less of "Django Unchained," his over-the-top, overlong splatter Western, would have been plenty.
It's vintage Tarantino, full of outrageous violence, creative casting (Don Johnson as a Klansman!) and rollicking rock music. There are some serious moments, too, but "Django Unchained" almost marks this director's first real comedy. Unfortunately, it wears out its welcome about two-thirds through, which means -- no kidding -- 45 more minutes to go.
Like "Inglourious Basterds," Tarantino's latest borrows its name and attitude from an old Italian flick, in this case the 1966 Spaghetti Western "Django." (Its blue-eyed star, Franco Nero, gets a cameo.) Our Django, played by a mostly stone-faced Jamie Foxx, is a slave searching the Deep South for his auctioned wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Tarantino uses this milieu to dole out on-screen whippings and maulings -- he's an exploitation filmmaker, after all, and a great one -- but he also focuses on the rage and shame of the slaves who are forced to watch.
The man who unchains Django is Dr. King (get it?) Schultz, played by "Basterds" Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, once again outshining his A-list castmates. Friendly and well-mannered, even when shooting people in the head, Schultz is a bounty hunter who purchases Django as a helpmate. But the two men get on so well that Schultz makes Django a free man, then a full business partner. "Like slavery," he explains cheerfully, "it's a flesh-for-cash business."
Then Tarantino really piles it on. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Calvin Candie, owner of a plantation called Candyland; Samuel L. Jackson is hilarious as his belligerent house slave; and the plot somehow expands to include blood-sport wrestling and Australian dynamiters. By that time, though, you'll be checking your watch and wondering how such an entertaining film became so boring.
PLOT In 1858, a former slave turned bounty hunter searches for his auctioned wife.
RATING R (extreme violence, language, sexual themes)
BOTTOM LINE Quentin Tarantino's wild, wild Western goes all-out, but keeps going for nearly three long hours. Initially terrific, ultimately tiresome.