Quentin Tarantino’s tricked-up interracial buddy pic splits unevenly into two halves. First up is a neatly trimmed one-hour pre-Civil War fable about a ruthless, if cultivated bounty-hunter (Christopher Waltz) who frees black slave Jamie Foxx to help him track his latest quarry. And while the levels of violence & gore now hit modern ‘R-Rated’ limits, the b&w buddy/buddy Zeitgeist bar has seen little movement since the days of Burt Lancaster & Ossie Davis in THE SCALPHUNTERS/’68. And it’s still audience pleasing stuff. But once Leonardo DiCaprio shows up as a sadistic ‘mandingo’ plantation owner in Part Two, the fable curdles into pastiche Spaghetti Western. (It's also twice as long.) As Foxx & Waltz head South to rescue Foxx’s wife, splattery violence, circumlocutionary flurries of non-dazzling dialogue & badass behavior take the place of real story-telling, a big comedown from the narrative force Tarantino once flaunted in PULP FICTION/’94 and JACKIE BROWN/’97. (Or does more credit belong with Roger Avary & Elmore Leonard on those?) Samuel L. Jackson, as DiCaprio’s wicked house slavey, does himself proud in old-age make-up swiped from Woody Strode in THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY/’62, but Waltz pretty much steals the pic. This must have come as quite a surprise to Foxx, usually the center of attention, but here unable to even get anything going with mate Kerry Washington. (So little, you wonder how Jackson figures out their backstory.) Maybe it’s time for Tarantino to stop working up his own stories magpie-style and try another adaptation.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: While many anachronisms are in here on purpose, surely someone could have told QT that ‘panache,’ as Waltz uses it, didn’t acquire its modern meaning of ‘dashing style’ & ‘pizzazz’ until Edmond Rostand recoined it for CYRANO DE BERGERAC in 1897.