It has been a while since I last saw a western in theatres. I couldn't even tell you the name of the last one. Django Unchained is a western. Anyone who argues the fact has never seen a western.
Sure theres some rap music and hip hop and Jim Croce and harp music in there. Just because the movie has a hardcore soundtrack doesn't mean it isn't a western.
Does it have some nods to blacksploitation flicks? Sure. Is it a blacksploitation western? No, I don't think so. It's a western. Even though it mostly doesn't take place in the old west.
Django Unchained is about a German bounty hunter goes by the name of Schultz. He used to be a dentist, but theres more profit and a slightly lower death rate in bounty hunting in those days so I guess he switches careers. He's a clever bounty hunter, and ends up freeing a slave named Django, in order to help him track down a particularly difficult bounty Django can help identify.
They accomplish their mission and they stick together so that Schultz and Django can find and free Django's wife, named Broomhilda, who conveniently enough to the plot was previously owned by Germans and speaks German. Some people might say Tarantino is reaching with this plotpoint, but at one point German was even considered as the official language of the USA, and a large population of Americans have German ancestry, so it's actually a valid historical point, how about that! Go Tarantino. She is being held at a place plantation called Candyland.
There they end up meeting Calvin Candy, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. A despicable individual who entertains himself with cruelty, but at the same time intelligent and ruthless. His slaves have a Stockholm syndrome type loyalty to him, especially Stephen, the "house nigger", played by Samuel L. Jackson (surely a nod to accusations of Jackson being just that in relation to Tarantino in the past)
Tarantino seems to be comfortable with the western format. It's a more subdued atmosphere than most of his films. Even the violence, though clearly Tarantino, is subdued. Perhaps because you expect a gunfight it in a western. Theres embellishment and dark humour, but its not the point of the movie. The movie does have a heart.
The movie is just under three hours long. Maybe a bit too long, but you get your moneys worth and for the most part theres no unnecessary part of the movie.
As a fan of Sergio Leone movies, would I put it up there? No. Django Unchained is not a masterpiece. It's a fun movie, and it sheds light on a part of history I don't think has been particularly thought about. The last bit of violence in the movie felt a bit out of place and over the top. I wasn't surprised by it, knowing Tarantino, but it seemed like he was going through the motions for his fans who like that sort of thing rather than doing it for the good of the movie or story.
There is an interesting point in the movie where Alexandre Dumas is brought up. While the movie brings him up in his reference to being part black (therefore, to the people of the south of the time, completely black), I felt he was mentioned because the storyline seemed very Dumas-esque. Maybe a bit of Count of Monte Cristo revenge fantasy.
All in all I liked the movie. The popcorn was decent though I seem to have spilled a bit of my drink. I give the movie a rating of infinity-2 out of pi. Maybe not for everybody, but if you like Tarantino and westerns, it's worthwhile.