January 2, 2013
First things first: I am a HUGE fan of western movies. They are, by far, my favourite film genre, and I’ve seen ’em all. I am also a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino. I’ve seen all of his movies too, but was left disappointed after seeing Django Unchained.
Tarantino’s western is far too long, which causes it to repeatedly lose its tension, diluting Tarantino’s rage-fuelled social commentary. There are too many cartoonish villains to care about any single one, and three too many confusing climaxes. I also found the film’s body count gratuitously bloody, and pointlessly high.
Seriously, I know westerns are inherently violent, so are Tarantino films, it’s the perfect blood storm, I get it, but in these immediate times of real life horrific gun violence, do we really need to watch outrageous, prolonged blood baths as entertainment?
If Tarantino wanted to make the first honest film about American slavery, why does the film digress into Django’s victims becoming a staggering parade of faceless video-game-esque hillbillies piling up in a crimson, soaking heap… what’s the point? Make me care about who you’re shooting down, Django!
That brings me to this list… five westerns I think are better than Django Unchained based on story alone.
1. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). My all-time favourite western and Clint Eastwood movie, about a Missouri farmer whose family and farm is destroyed by marauding Union soldiers at the end of the Civil War. So begins Wales’ long journey of being both the hunter and the hunted, slowly gathering an amazing and unlikely ensemble cast of supporting characters, including an Oscar-nominated, hilarious and profound performance by Chief Dan George.
2. True Grit (1969). This was the movie that finally won the aging legend John Wayne his Oscar. An outstanding adventure set against the backdrop of Colorado, this movie focusses on a young, extremely headstrong girl who is bent on bringing her father’s killer to justice. To do it, she enlists the help of the awesomely cantankerous US Marshall Rooster Cogburn. The film is worth it for the climatic gunfight on horseback in the open field, when Rooster Cogburn shouts out at outlaw Ned Pepper (a very nasty Robert Duvall) “fill your hands, you son of a bitch!”
3. Deadwood (2004 – 2006). Yeah, it’s a TV show, but there is arguably more historical fact and realism in the first ten minutes of this brilliant series set in the ill-fated town in the Badlands of South Dakota than there is in the entirety Django Unchained. Characters Al Swearengen, Sol Star, Calamity Jane, and Seth Bullock, and many others were all real people, c*ck s*cker!
4. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). A classic John Ford western about the early attempts to civilize the west, featuring the acting trifecta of Jimmy Stewart (the shaky new lawyer in town), John Wayne (the larger than life good guy), and Lee Marvin (the evil Liberty Valance, armed with both six-guns and a bull whip). Contains the classic line “This is the West. When legend becomes fact, print the legend”.
5. Unforgiven (1992). A gothic western of pathos, regret, guilt, and deliverance. When a hooker is disfigured in a remote frontier town and the sheriff (Gene Hackman) refuses to act, a bounty is put forth, attracting all manner of gunslinger, including the previously retired, ailing, alcoholic William Munny (Clint Eastwood).
Honourable mention: High Noon (1952), 3:10 To Yuma (2007), The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), The Searchers (1956), Winchester ’73 (1950), Shane (1953).
Let me know what you think. Have at ‘er in the comments section below. What is your favourite western? Did you love / like / loathe Django Unchained?