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Tarantino coasts with the dull 'Django Unchained'

AP Photo | The Weinstein Company, Andrew Cooper
In this undated publicity photo released by The Weinstein Company, from left, Jamie Foxx as Django and Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candle star in the film, 'Django Unchained,' directed by Quentin Tarantino.

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By Roger Moore
Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, 7:16 p.m.


‘Django Unchained'

R for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language and some nudity; ** (out of four)

Bullets, bullwhips and beatings produce slo-mo geysers of blood. Pistoleros launch into soliloquies on slavery and the German Siegfried myth.

“Django Unchained” is set in Quentin Tarantino's pre-Civil War South. Another indulgent movie from the cinema's reigning junk-genre junkie, “Django” mashes together 1960s Italian “Spaghetti Westerns” and '70s American “Blacksploitation” pictures.

Hey, he got away with a fantastical World War II Holocaust-revenge picture (“Inglourious Basterds”). Why not a “revenge for slavery” romp?

Django is a slave turned bounty hunter, a black man who gets to “kill white folks, and they pay you for it.” The film features a couple of Oscar winners — Jamie Foxx in the title role, and Christoph Walz, who won his statuette for “Inglourious.”

The players are in fine form. But the movie is a hit-and-miss affair, at times an amusing reimagining of history, more often a blood-spattered bore.

It ambles between “the cool parts” — over-the-top shootouts. But the renowned witty Tarantino monologues that spark the interludes between shootouts are weak, the connecting threads scanty.

Waltz has a grand time playing a German dentist traveling the South in a more lucrative line of work. He's a bounty hunter, who needs Django to identify some killers. And when Dr. Schultz can't talk the hardcases transporting Django into selling him, he shoots them.

Django is given his freedom, a horse and a gun. He'll help with this hunt, and then set out in search of his wife (Kerry Washington), who was sold off to a distant plantation. This salt-and-pepper team hustles, insults and shoots their way through the Old South as if it's the Old West.

Don Johnson leads a lynch mob, which includes Jonah Hill. Leonardo DiCaprio smacks his villainous lips as the smart, hypocritical Mississippi monster they must outfox and outgun to complete Django's quest.

The historical bastardization includes pre-Civil War characters seen in faded Confederate uniforms, and dynamite, that talisman of every Z-grade Western, shows up nine years before it was patented. Some scenes convey Tarantino-esque tension. But his unwillingness to trim anything slows the film to a crawl.

• Wide release

Roger Moore is a movie critic for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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