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Django Unchained: Reviewed
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L Jackson.
Director: Quentin Tarantino Certificate: 18
In my opinion Quentin Tarantino’s best work was in the 1990’s when he brought us a whole new way of storytelling with such landmark films as Reservoir Dogs (92) and Pulp Fiction (94). Not forgetting True Romance (93) which he wrote and From Dusk Till Dawn (96) for screenplay and some serious psycho acting.
I didn’t much care for the Kill Bill’s or Grindhouse and Death Proof wilderness years in the early noughties. (Yes...that’s right I didn’t like Kill Bill, so get over it!) But then he was back on form with a vengeance with Inglourious Basterds (2009). A World War 2 comedy drama in which Tarantino had the nerve to re-write history. For Django Unchained just think Inglourious Basterds on horseback and instead of ludicrously bloody Nazi head count, think blood splattered plantation foreman head count.
This is the Western movie that Tarantino had always longed to make and it’s a well known fact that he’s a huge Spaghetti Western fan and this is the style that the film adopts. He even treats us to huge red lettering flashing across the screen accompanied by a sixties ‘The Good The Bad and The Ugly’ style soundtrack which sets the tone in the early part of the film and makes an almost unnoticed transition into modern rap in the latter parts.
The film is set two years before the American Civil War and the emancipation of slavery. Dr. King Schultz a German dentist turned bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) enlists the assistance of a black slave called Django (Jamie Foxx) to help him track down the Brittle brothers who are wanted for murder. The brothers are working as overseers on a plantation and Schultz needs Django to ID them before he shoots them dead.
This unlikely pair form a relationship and travel the Deep South still using a dentist wagon displaying a giant tooth on a massive spring on the roof. Django turns out to be a natural crack shot with a firearm and Schultz offers him a partnership as a bounty hunter. He finds it hard to turn down a job where he is legally allowed to shoot white people.
In return for his help Schultz agrees to pay Django a percentage of his bounty income and promises to make him a free man. The story takes another turn when Schultz also decides to help locate Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who was sold to a Mississippi plantation owner, the sadistic Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Although Jamie Foxx has top billing as the title character. It is German actor Christoph Waltz (who won an Oscar for his role as the Nazi Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds) that steals the show. The character of Schultz is a very likeable bounty hunter, who is well spoken, intelligent and very charming but he can also be quite ruthless. If a wanted poster states ‘Dead or Alive’ Schultz will choose the dead option every time. Django takes full advantage of his new position with relish as he also legally guns down the bad guys. The film is very bloody and very violent and has earned an eighteen certificate in the UK but at the same time Tarantino has written some deliciously funny lines to balance this up. The best dialogue is saved for Shultz and Christoph Waltz delivers the lines with typical German precision.
There’s a hilarious laugh out loud scene involving a posse of Ku Klux Klansman led by Miami Vice’s Don Johnson, discussing the state of the bags they have to wear over their head with obscured vision from badly positioned eye holes. You can also have fun in spotting a few cameo appearances throughout the films two hours forty five minutes.
There is one particular cameo that you may not recognise. Italian actor Franco Nero who played the original Drango in the 1966 cult film of the same name; which was one of the first westerns to be filmed outside of the USA and thus coined the name Spaghetti Western. Even though the 2013 version is extremely gratuitous in the more violent scenes it’s amazing how liberal censors have become. Back in 1966 Drango was labeled as one of the most violent films ever made and was not allowed a certificate in the UK until as late as1993. Now available on DVD just in case you’re curious?
There are two other stand-out performances in this film. Leonardo DiCaprio appears to really enjoy his role of the foppish dandy plantation master with sociopathic tendencies and an unhealthy interest in his own sister. But it’s the Head house slave Stephen played by a white haired Samuel L Jackson who appears even more dangerous and unstable than the white slavers.
If you decide to go and see this film the chances are that you are already a Tarantino fan and therefore I can say without a doubt that you will absolutely love this film. I know I did.
Four out of five stars.