Jamie Foxx didn't impress much back when he was just a moderately funny 'In Living Color' cast member. But since then he's become a surprisingly dependable actor, especially in his outings with director Michael Mann.
The part of Django was supposed to have been played by Will Smith, which would have been more enticing from a sheer curiosity standpoint but Foxx has more edge than Smith and doesn't muddle things up with the same level of stunt casting distractions. Plus, he looks undeniably cool as a cowboy. His casting may have been a surprise, but it was a good one.
Leonardo DiCaprio as the Bad Guy
Speaking of stunt casting distractions, the bad guy in 'Django Unchained' (named Calvin Candie) is played by none other than Leonardo DiCaprio. And considering how often he flashes us his nasty teeth, the funny coconut drink we see him holding, and the gladiator style slave fights he hosts in his living room, it looks like DiCaprio's trading in his usual smoldering and unhappy good guy tension for more of a wacky fun-loving evil type of guy. In other words, DiCaprio appears to be having fun for the first time since The Aviator.
Tarantino's always been pretty good at coming up with character names that manage to be fitting and iconic, but also kind of funny. Django Unchained is filled with characters who keep this tradition alive. You really can't go wrong when your film is filled with names such as Dicky Speck, Ace Speck, Tracker Peg, Tracker Lex, Tracker Stew, Jinglebells Cody, Dr. King Schultz, and our personal favorite: Amber Tamblyn's "Daughter of a Son of a Gunfighter."
Each trailer we get of 'Django Unchained' has featured an increasing amount of violence, the most recent one offering little more than a symphony of gunfire. While Tarantino will forever be pegged as a direct of violent films, for the first half of his career he was really more a supplier of memorable violence rather than endless bullet fests. That began to change when Tarantino started directing real action scenes with Kill Bill, and it looks like the trajectory will be continued here. A lot of people are going to get shot in 'Django Unchanged', and I'm willing to be each instance has a little of that extra Tarantino oomph behind it.
No one puts together soundtracks like Tarantino. Not only does he fill his movies with the perfect songs to match the scenes, but his cuts are deep enough that his soundtracks often end up offering an education as well as entertainment (with abundant audio clips from his films for good measure).
'Django Unchained' appears to be no different. Of course, there will be a heavy helping of Ennio Morricone. But we also have the likes of Rick Ross, Brother Dege, James Brown, and Jim Croce to anticipate. There will be clever anachronism, and it will likely thrill.
Even people who hated 'Inglourious Basterds' must have come away impressed with Christoph Waltz's movie-stealing performance as Hans Landa. That he's back with another prominent role in a Tarantino film should be cause for celebration. Plus it looks like some serious bromance action could develop between he and Django, though that dynamic might change at the drop of a hat. Waltz has shown us how chilling he can be as a villain. Now we get to see him as a roguish mentor figure. Hopefully he remains just as menacing and magnetic.
Or rather a "Southern." Regardless, we've already seen Tarantino dip his toes into the Western well a bit in 'Kill Bill: Vol. 2,' and he came away with successful results.
Now he's going all out period piece. Horses, slaves, plantations, six-shooters and spurs: 'Django Unchained' is a full on Western, in probably the same visually recognizable but narratively atypical way 'Inglourious Basterds' was full on World War 2 film. And since we get so few Westerns lately, each new one provides cause for excitement.
It's normal for a Quentin Tarantino film to have an interesting eclectic supporting cast, but this one is out of control. Don Johnson, Robert Carradine, Jonah Hill, Walton Goggins, James Remar, Franco Nero, Bruce Dern, Amber Tamblyn… the list goes on and on. It'd doubtful many of these will end up being more than brief walk-on cameos, but 'Django Unchained' nevertheless stands to be just as alive with recognizable faces as Spielberg's 'Lincoln,' only with an inverted bullet-in-head ratio.
Quentin Tarantino has been in the news this week thanks to issues stemming from 'Django Unchained's' three hour-plus cut, which he is now working feverishly to get down to a more audience friendly running time.
But while a three hour long drama about child abuse might stretch patience, a three hour long action packed epic probably won't. Most of Tarantino's films extend well beyond the two hour mark, but few of them waste a moment. And considering how much plot the trailers appear to give away, a super long movie ensures a much more complex story than the one advertisements have been selling.
It's a Quentin Tarantino Movie
Sony Pictures Entertainment
When a director develops a good track record, that builds up a certain amount of faith that whatever they choose to do will be worth watching. And while this isn't an opinion shared by everyone, few directors have a track record as impressive as Tarantino's. As he himself somewhat notoriously stated in this week week's The Hollywood Reporter director roundtable, when 'Death Proof' is your worst film, you're doing something right. It stands to reason that 'Django Unchained' will be great simply because all Tarantino's films so far have been great. What more do you need than that?