Who can get away with pairing up a German dentist-turned-bounty hunter with a slave out to avenge the subjugation of his wife Broomhilda? It’s touches like these, simultaneously invoking Wagnerian grandeur and a life of drudgery, that allow only one answer.
Yes, the master Tarantino is back and in excoriatingly contrary form, milking every character, plot development and genre allusion until it’s been deconstructed, reassembled and then thrown to the dogs for extra effect.
Dr. King Schultz is a manipulative bounty hunter scouring the deep south for ready booty in 1858, played by Christoph Waltz with the same bewildering ambiguities that won him an Oscar in Inglourious Basterds. Jamie Foxx plays Django, whose purchase by King is a trade-off for his liberation (once he’s helped King locate a couple of villains), freeing him up for his own revenge bender on the men mistreating his wife.
And when we finally arrive at Candyland, where Broomhilda is being held captive by plantation owner Calvin Candie (DiCaprio), Samuel L. Jackson is there to invert the plain-talking mammy stereotype, playing the in-house slave who delivers the n-word as smoothly as his master. With a soundtrack that mixes up James Brown with original compositions and a witches’ brew of genres in which blaxploitation bubbles up with revenge westerns and antebellum Tennessee Williams, this is one crazy, exhilarating, disgracefully incorrect ride.
Django Unchained | Directed by Quentin Tarantino (USA 2012) with Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson. Starts January 17