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In pre Civil War Texas, former dentist turned bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), buys the freedom of a slave, Django (Jamie Foxx), who can identify his next bounty, a gang of stagecoach robbers and killers. But Django proves such a valuable asset Schultz makes him a free man and trains him as his deputy. Although happy enough with the deal, Django most wants to find his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who had been separately sold as part of his punishment for trying to escape his owners. The trail eventually leads to the huge plantation estate owned by the ruthless - and heavily protected - Calvin Candie (Leonardo diCaprio).

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Proudly wearing the badge of exploitation cinema, from opening blood red splash titles to the powderkeg finale, Django Unchained is the terrific story of a slave who becomes a hero as he overcomes hurdles and challenges to find and save the woman he loves. Yes, but it's how that matters.

Jamie Foxx is outstanding as Django, surprised by fate, driven by love, confronted by hate, nurtured by his new friend, Schultz (Christoph Waltz).

Waltz brings his remarkable complexity to the role of Schultz, a clever, indeed scheming, opportunist who openly declares that he makes money killing people - wanted outlaws only, though. Schultz's professional side is at odds with his humanist nature; he abhors slavery, for example, and he shows a fine sense of justice that moderates any moral disquiet we may have about his job. The Waltz persona is not far below the surface, and is the grounding for all his characters throughout his career and Tarantino makes great use of it, as he did when they made Inglourious Basterds (2009).

Tarantino has used the German connection through Waltz to build a layer of complexity and added interest into his screenplay, by giving Django's wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) a connection that proves crucial to the plot: she was raised by German slave owners, who taught her some German - which provides a ready and open excuse for the German expat, Schultz, to be interested in her when the time comes. There is a scene in which Schultz tells Django the German legend of Brunhilda, whose father punished her by isolating her on top of a mountain guarded by a dragon and a ring of hell-fire - but a brave suitor saved her. In a neatly handled desert setting, the two men realise how the legend is a symbolic mirror for Django's own quest ...

It's these sorts of juxtapositions and inspirations that give the film such texture and interest, riding alongside the wild adventure: not the Wild West but the White-Right South. This is the era and the place of absolute racism, where the wealthy and powerful Calvin Candie (Leonardo diCaprio) thrives on the backs of a thousand slaves.

In yet another complete surrender of self, diCaprio gives us Candie, a complex and dangerous man who will not tolerate being crossed or duped. He is brutal and he is arrogant but he paints himself as civilised; it's a reminder that the Candies of the world did not (and do not) believe they were morally wrong. It's a masterful performance, and one of the many in this film that elevate the work above its genre credentials.

As is that of Samuel L. Jackson, almost unrecognisable as Stephen, Candie's loyal - too loyal - old major domo. His sense of superiority, his powerful position and his strong instincts prove to be a critical hurdle for Django and Shultz in their daring endeavour.

Nobody plays it for laughs, though laughs there are; one minor exception may be the scene where a posse of the Regulators (precursor to the KKK) squabble about their headbags, poorly made by one of the wives. And for Australians, there are a couple of especially hearty ones as we recognise Tarantino playing an Aussie, alongside John Jarratt; go see to find out how and why.

Exciting, entertaining, funny, dramatic and edgy, Django Unchained is also intelligent and sometimes touching, often bloody and yet - in the end - a romantic softie, too.

Review by Louise Keller:
It's the incongruity of all the elements of Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained that make it irresistibly delectable. Starting with a tip of the hat to Sergio Corbucci's 1966 spaghetti western Django, starring Franco Nero, and the stylised opening credits of the era, the haunting title song by Luis Enríquez Bacalov and Franco Migliacci sets the scene. Slavery and revenge are the themes, amply adorned by violence, bloodshed and humour Tarantino style.

No-one does humour in violence like Tarantino. But there's more. Central to the action is the German bounty-hunter Dr Schultz (Christoph Waltz) masquerading as a dentist, his horse drawn carriage pounding the rough terrain of the Texas Wild West with a giant fake wobbly molar bouncing ludicrously from the spring attached to its roof. Dr Schultz is as polite as his horse Fritz, who whinnies on introduction.

The opening sequence in which Dr Schultz meets Django (Jamie Foxx), one of five slaves shackled together quickly shows us what Dr Schultz is capable of. Inglourious Basterds in 2009 showed us what Oscar-winning Waltz is capable of, and here he has clearly been the inspiration for Tarantino for this meticulously created character, who remains calm at all times, deliberates as he fiddles with his moustache and never hesitates when it counts.

Dr Schultz is a pragmatic man. The contract into which he enters with Django, for which the slave is to identify three wanted criminals to add to Dr Schultz's bounty list, offers him freedom, some cash and help to find his beloved, enslaved wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). The notion of searching for a beautiful black slave who speaks German (having been raised by Germans) and is named after a legend in which the heroic Siegfried overcomes the odds and rescues her is tantalising to Dr Schultz - and to us. And so the journey begins.

Foxx fits right in and is well cast as Django, a fearless rebel who can hit his target every time. The scene in which the men target practice by shooting the eyes, nose and mouth of a snowman is wonderfully absurd. As Dr Schultz's explanation of a bounty hunter sinks in, Django utters 'What's not to like? Killing white men and getting paid for it?'

The bounty hunting sequences act as a prelude for the main event, that takes place at the plush plantation called Candieland, another absurdity, where Broomhilda is enslaved and Leonardo diCaprio's sadistic Calvin Candie delights in Mandingo fighting, where negroes are set upon each other until death. The scene in which a terrified negro is torn apart by dogs is one that gives an insight into Candie's debauchery.

DiCaprio is handsome, authoritative and looks as though he loves every second of the role. Tarantino teases us by making us wait patiently for Dr Schultz' plan, which is worth the wait and is entertainingly executed. An almost unrecognisable Samuel L. Jackson is a revelation as the canny Stephen, Candie's right hand man.

Honour and loyalty are strong themes, but there's romance, too. And those expecting a splash, bloody Tarantino- esque ending (or two), will not be disappointed. Look out for Tarantino himself, sporting a fine Australian accent in one memorable scene alongside John Jarratt. Franco Nero also makes a cameo appearance. Hell's bells, there is a lot to take in and soak up in this hotdog Tarantino Western. It's a killer.

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(US, 2012)

CAST: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Don Johnson, Leonardo diCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Dennis Christopher, James Remar, David Steen, Quentin Tarantino, John Jarratt, Jonah Hill

PRODUCER: Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone, Stacey Sher

DIRECTOR: Quentin Tarantino

SCRIPT: Quentin Tarantino

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Richardson

EDITOR: Fred Raskin


RUNNING TIME: 141 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 24, 2013

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