Django Unchained (18)
Director: Quentin Tarantino.
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L Jackson and Kerry Washington.
Running time: 2hrs 45mins.
NO-ONE does homages quite like Tarantino, what with the remarkable eye for detail that he brings to the job.
In fact, a brief resume of his credits brings into question whether any of his big-hitter films have been anything other than tributes to the film makers that made the young Quentin part with his cash in the late 60s and 70s.
But here he nails it right on the head right from the opening Frankie Laine-style song which heralds in our story of a former slave turned bounty hunter.
The opening scene sees two slavers trundling through woods with a line of slaves in tow.
Appearing in the distance is a wagon with a model of a molar bouncing around chaotically on a spring on top of it.
Driving the wagon is dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (Waltz) who is looking to buy a particular slave, Django (Foxx), to help him run to ground three men who have jumped bail.
Trouble ensues and the slavers find themselves on the wrong end of Dr Schultz’s gun.
The former dentist makes Django an offer he doesn’t want to refuse: after tracking down the offending bail-jumper, the former slave has the option of joining the bounty hunter and making a fair few dollars by shooting white men on the wrong side of the law.
He of course agrees but with the proviso that he also wants to search for his wife, Broomhilda (Washington).
The duo track down Django’s wife to a plantation owned by Calvin Candie (DiCaprio), a slave-owner who is into Mandingo fighting and has pretensions to being French (though he doesn’t speak a word of the language).
In tow, Candie has his faithful, black servant, Stephen (Jackson), who smells something fishy going on between Django and the servant, Broomhilda.
The situation is resolved in true Tarantino fashion – and many will know what that entails.
The cast is, mostly, well chosen with Jamie Foxx being the weakest link.
Christoph Waltz is the last word in charming as the bounty hunter who has no truck with slavery – but knows how to use it to his advantage.
DiCaprio throws himself into the role of the southern land/slaver owner who wishes to appear like a well-read gentleman but is rather too cruel and ignorant to pull it off.
Samuel L Jackson excels in his role as the slave who is treated with more reverence by his owner than many of the white folks and who offers no allegiance to others of his kind.
A brave move by Jackson who, for most of his career, has enjoyed the hero-status role in past movies.
Foxx, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to ‘get’ the Tarantino approach and simply works his ticket through the production.
But with all the other talent on hand who know exactly why they are there, he gets away with it.
An immensely funny film, much of the humour is attributable to Waltz whose urbane and well-educated character, Schultz, makes light of the most violent scenes and effortlessly shows up the pretentious Candie without even trying.
A real return to form for Tarantino (given that I didn’t really appreciate Inglorious Basterds as a good inclusion in the director’s canon of work).