April has been a pretty poor month for Blu-ray fans thus far, and the disappointment continues this week. With the exception of Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, there aren’t many new releases to get excited about unless you’re a fan of Marvel’s anime projects or the 1984 cult hit “Repo Man.” Unfortunately, I’m not particularly crazy about either, and so while today’s column would have been just as easy to skip as the previous two weeks, it’s hard to ignore Tarantino’s bloody Western.
Though the director doesn’t make very many films, when Tarantino does release a new one, it’s always met with the same kind of crazed excitement usually reserved for summer tentpoles, and that’s because his movies are practically big events themselves. After dabbling in just about every genre at this point in his career, it was only natural that he would eventually try his hand at making a Western, even if “Django Unchained” is more of a genre mash-up between a spaghetti western and a blaxploitation film, complete with all the musical cues, whip pans and other stylistic flourishes. The film also reveals itself to be somewhat of a buddy comedy, and this is when “Django Unchained” is at its best, delivering some of Tarantino’s funniest dialogue and anchored by yet another show-stopping performance from Christoph Waltz. By the time Leonardo DiCaprio’s charming but villainous plantation owner is introduced, however, the movie starts to lose steam. Though DiCaprio is a lot of fun to watch in the role, the second half of the film drags on for too long, and that’s coming from someone who usually welcomes Tarantino’s tendency towards excess. “Django Unchained” is propped up by a pair of fantastic performances and is filled with plenty of classic Tarantino moments, but it’s hard not to feel a little letdown, because it simply doesn’t live up to the high standards set by his previous films.
Blu-ray Highlight: A review copy wasn’t provided in time, but if other sources are to be believed, the included bonus material is a bit lackluster, with only a handful of extras (including featurettes on the film’s costumes, stunts and production designer J. Michael Riva) and no audio commentary by Tarantino.