Before The Hateful Eight, many film critics asked ‘what the hell can Quentin Tarantino bring to the Western?’ The answer delivered with predictable aplomb (if you’re a Tarantino fan, which I am) was Django Unchained, a crisp, intelligent anti-hero romp across America’s Deep South in the years before the abolition of slavery.
Jamie Foxx plays the eponymous Django, a slave on whom fortune smiles when his captors – who have aired on the wrong side of the law – are dispatched by the exquisitely stylish bounty hunter Dr King Schultz, played by Christoph Waltz. The pair form an unlikely partnership and set about the bloody business of taking down dastardly rednecks – for profit – while also searching for Django’s wife who remains a slave.
There are some brilliantly comic performances from the ensemble cast including Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, Franco Nero and Don Johnson as the revolting, supremacist plantation owner Big Daddy.
It goes without saying that this film courted controversy in the US on release, Spike Lee commented that he wouldn’t see the film was because it was disrespectful of slavery, while Samuel L Jackson, who plays an utterly vile Uncle Tom character on a plantation, was heavily criticised for the film’s routine use of the N-word. Django Unchained is not a historical drama, nor is it a critique of America’s past; it does like many of Tarantino’s films caricature raw sensitivities and magnify them for the sake of the plot. This, though, is not a reason to avoid it.
Fox and Waltz have great on screen chemistry and the delivery into the plot of Leonardo DiCaprio complements them. Tarantino is the master of the pantomime villain creation and he gives DiCaprio plenty to develop as the sadistic high society wannabe Calvin Candie.
Wearing the hat of political correctness, everything about the film is a no-no but it is nonetheless an unabashed and glorious addition to the Tarantino canon.
Django Unchained Thusday 10.00pm on 5Star
Photos: ©2012 – The Weinstein Company