Quentin Tarantino’s audacious blaxploitation Western Django Unchained is a brazen, bloodily violent revenge fantasy and it creates an instant cinematic icon out of Jamie Foxx’s whip-scarred slave turned strikingly cool avenger.
His name borrowed from the iconic Spaghetti Western character, Fox’s Django is saved from a Deep South chain gang by Christoph Waltz’s dapper bounty hunter Dr King Schultz and quickly proves his aptitude for the bounty-hunting business.
Highly impressed, Schultz agrees to help Django rescue his enslaved wife Hildi (Kerry Washington) from the Mississippi plantation owned by Leonardo DiCaprio’s sadistic Calvin Candie, but Candie’s shrewd slave butler Stephen, played by Samuel L Jackson as a grotesque, self-hating Uncle Tom, becomes suspicious of their scheme.
Tarantino’s film has its flaws. The middle section is decidedly saggy and some episodes – such as a Blazing Saddles-like sequence in which a posse of blundering Klansmen fret over the size of the eyeholes in their sacks – go on way too long. Tarantino’s own cameo as an Australian slaver is cringe-worthy. And the romance between Django and Broomhilda doesn’t live up to weight the story places upon it.
But the film’s best sequences are so dazzling that you simply have to applaud Tarantino’s panache and the brilliance of Waltz, Foxx, DiCaprio and Jackson, who pull off Tarantino’s wordiest flights of fancy with incredible brio. True, some viewers will be uncomfortable with the way Tarantino plays much of the bloodshed for laughs, but in other places his film tackles the barbarity of slavery with an unflinching honesty and deadly moral seriousness.
Released on DVD, Blu-ray & Digital Download on Monday 20th May by Lions Gate Home Entertainment.
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