Un-un, bambini, this ain't your daddy's lighthearted kind of Italian western. Mind you, it's almost fifty years old, so it might very well be your grandaddy's Italian western, but, in all seriousness, strap in people, because this was considered one of the most violent films of all time... almost fifty years ago. Still, the fact of the matter is that the Italians sure know how to push the envelope, even when it comes to westerns, although, to be fair, that might have just been Sergio Leon's idea. You're not fooling everyone with the surname Corbucci, because we all know that this was your attempt to go back and reboot the "Man with No Name" saga with a lead actor who is actually Italian... and actually has a name. Well, that just goes and blows the mystique, but hey, the character's titular name sure did make for a catchy theme song by Rocky Roberts, and for, like, 100 decent unofficial sequels/rip-offs. Yeah, Django is pretty much to Italian cinema what Wong Fei-hung is to Hong Kong cinema, except the thing is that, with all of my going on about how they finally got a spaghetti western icon who is actually played by an Italian, Django is a dismissed Union soldier. Man, Mexicans are getting the business from everyone, including spaghetti western filmmakers, but I'd be sick of these Italians coming in and taking western film stories that we Americans could use, were it not for the fact that they can make some decent westerns, at least to a certain extent.
Although spaghetti westerns of this type are defined by their being edgier than your garden-variety Hollywood melodrama portrayal of the Old West, there's something romantic about the storytelling him which intentionally draws sometimes near-cheesy histrionics that might be easier to embrace in the context of this romantic story is the story in question didn't get to be so formulaic with its melodramatics. The conventions would in turn be easier to embrace if there weren't refreshing elements here and there throughout this classic "man with no name" type of spaghetti western storyline, betrayed by the conventions that still aren't prominent enough to make the characters as recognizable as they probably should be. This film just wouldn't be what it is were it not for that enigmatic aura to some of the most important characters, who ought to be undercooked, but by under-developing most everyone, Sergio and Bruno Corbucci and Franco Rossetti, as writers, thin out much of the depth to the film, no matter how much time they spend dragging their feet. There are a number of subtly draggy plotting points that meander along, but, considering that the final product is merely a little over 90 minutes long, if nothing else retards momentum, it is a slow "sense" of momentum, for although Sergio Corbucci's direction is generally reasonably colorful, when dry spells kick in, the film dulls down, something that it can't afford to do if it wishes to craft a project whose execution is more rewarding than its concept. Almost all the complaints I just made are only moderate issues, thus, what really holds the final product back is natural shortcomings, as this is a surprisingly mostly action-oriented spaghetti western that seems to force in certain areas of dramatic consequence that still don't do much to beef up the narrative. It all comes down to a pretty disconcertingly abrupt ending, and by that time, it becomes all but impossible to ignore the inconsequentiality of this drama of limited dramatic weight, whose shortcomings are nonetheless stressed throughout the film by histrionics, conventions, developmental issues and slow spells which reflect a certain laziness. Of course, what reflects inspiration is near-shimmering, almost to the point of making a rewarding film, through all of the hiccups, partly through a solid artistic value.
As I said, Luis Bacalov, with the help Alabamian-turned honorary Italian Rocky Roberts opens the film with one seriously catchy theme song, but the soundtrack's flare doesn't quite end there, for although Bacalov's score falls into formula at times, it's never short on a beautiful Italian bite, complimented by some excellent Italian, Latin and classical-style guitar work, and punctuated by some subtle and intensity which characterizes the particular grit of spaghetti westerns, as surely as art direction defines the look of any western. Carlo Simi's art direction is subtle, but that only adds to the convincingness of this era, and rather handsomely, at least when the visuals and production values behind cinematography by Enzo Barboni whose bleak palette is handsomely unique, even to this day. The films good lucks have done a fine job of standing the test of time, just as its musicality continues to engage, thus, the film is, if nothing else, an artistic hit that offers much to compliment style, while substance is largely complimented by some solid performances. Now, the English dub offers some questionable voice acting, but most everyone actually does just fine, whether you be observing them in the original Italian, or simply paying attention to their physical performances, with Franco Nero, despite not being given many layers, standing out with an enigmatic charisma that makes the titular Django character a memorable soft-spoken lead, who is still memorable largely because of the characterization. Well, due to dramatic meat's being thin, the characterization is thin, both in expository depth and in dimension, but as a portrait on the romantic, yet brutally lawless world of an Old West nearing Mexico, this film's thematic depth thrives on the characters, providing some degree of weight that all but compensates for the inconsequentiality which plagues so much of the story concept. Sergio Corbucci's directorial interpretation of this story further brings the final product to the brink of rewarding, with style that is particularly sharp during some intense, if a little noisy action sequences, broken up by a fluffless atmosphere which you could hardly find in Hollywood westerns of the time, and which power the heights in dramatic bite which are too limited in this film. Granted, the film's bite was always to be limited by a certain dramatic minimalism, but, for what this is, there is a lot of inspiration, enough to make an adequately entertaining and gripping western thriller that, at the very least, borders on rewarding.
Overall, certain histrionics are made all the more glaring by conventions, while underdevelopment, dragging and bland atmospheric dry spells emphasize the film's lacking a dramatic solid story concept to begin with, thus, the final product falls short of rewarding, but is nonetheless carries close enough by excellent scoring, decent art direction, handsome cinematography, good performances, - particularly by the charismatic Franco Nero - memorable characters and slick direction - highlighted by strong action and some biting dramatic atmosphere - to make Sergio Corbucci's "Django" a reasonably thrilling, if flawed spaghetti western classic.
2.75/5 - Decent