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December 25, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Brilliant but excessive — that would sum up the mixed reaction of most critics to Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained — as it would sum up their reaction to most of Tarantino’s previous films. Brilliant trumps the excessive in some reviews; in others, it’s the reverse. Take Ann Hornaday’s in the Washington Post, which praises the film for its “unmistakable subversive power, its playfully insurrectionist spirit,” but concludes by rebuking Tarantino for his “notorious self-indulgence. … His love of a good bloodbath finally negates the admittedly exaggerated but brutally vivid truths he’s evoked.” A.O. Scott in the New York Times likens it to Tarantino’s last film, Inglourious Basterds, writing that like Basterds, “Django Unchained is crazily entertaining, brazenly irresponsible and also ethically serious in a way that is entirely consistent with its playfulness.” It is also, he writes, “digressive, jokey, giddily brutal and ferociously profane. But it is also a troubling and important movie about slavery and racism.” Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer concludes that sometimes the movie “crackles, and sometimes it merely cracks.” Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune acknowledges that he is “conflicted about the mixture of jocularity and sadism” that Tarantino presents. Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail is not so conflicted, writing that Tarantino is “so enamored of the exploitation cinema he emulates, there is a serious risk that noble intentions get smothered in juvenile comedy and cinematic grandstanding.” Rex Reed in the New York Observer describes his own mixed reaction to the film this way: “It’s overlong, raunchy, shocking, grim, exaggerated, self-indulgently over-the-top and so politically incorrect it demands a new definition of the term. It is also bold, original, mesmerizing, stylish and one hell of a piece of entertainment.” Several critics remark about the time it takes Tarantino to tell his tale — about three hours. “There are a couple of spots when you are sure you’ve just witnessed a bang-up ending only to find Tarantino setting things up for another round,” writes Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times. But Mick LaSalle counters in the San Francisco Chronicle: “It’s 165 minutes long and shouldn’t be a minute shorter.”