REVIEW: The Western genre has had its share of gun-toting legends, but you'd be hard-pressed to find one as audacious and so God-damn cool as Django.
Quentin Tarantino's highly-anticipated Western - or ''Southern'' as the man himself calls it - finds the idiosyncratic film-maker again rewriting the history books in bold, broad strokes on pulpy parchment.
Having pulled cinema's greatest burn job on the Third Reich in Inglourious Basterds, he now blacksploits the Old West and the Deep South, empowering a pre-Civil War slave and and setting him loose on his oppressors while trying to rescue his wife from a villainous plantation owner.
If Abe Lincoln was the great emancipator, Django, played by Jamie Foxx, has been fashioned as the great annihilator; a soul full of vengeance whose shotgun makes abstract art out of white men's flesh.
Setting Django free is mentor Dr King Shultz (Christoph Waltz), a cunning German dentist turned bounty hunter, who can fill bodies with lead as effortlessly as he can tame large chucks of Tarantino speak.
Now, if Django Unchained was just another violent revenge tale, I'd be accusing QT of simply dressing Kill Bill in a cowboy hat. More rewarding than the mere plot is the way Tarantino can strut between genres and emotions, making it all fit together beneath a soundtrack that shifts between Ennio Moriccone Spaghetti Western arrangements, hip hop, country and a James Brown/2Pac mash-up.
Django Unchained has the uncanny distinction of being one of few mainstream movies to not shy away from the brutality of slavery, and also being Tarantino's funniest since Pulp Fiction.
The picture's biggest joke is a mob of masked white supremacist half-wits - perhaps America's first Ku Klux Klan? - and its biggest hook, the warm yet understated camaraderie between Shultz and Django.
Did folks really call each other ''motherf**ker'' back in the 1850s? Hell no. Was 'Mandingo fighting' - plantation owners setting slaves against each other in ghastly death matches - a real thing? Probably not. Colour and shape - and tipping his hat to film favourites, such as Django (1966) and Mandingo (1975) - have always been more important to the filmmaker than realism.
Reaping the rewards are his principal cast. Foxx effectively channels a simmering fury and, just as importantly, looks awesome in 19th century sunglasses. Waltz has a ball as the outsider bemused by American ''culture'', while Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L Jackson are batshit brilliant as maniacal plantation owner Calvin Candie and his 'Uncle Tom' underling Stephen.
The only real shortcoming is absence of a strong female presence - Kerry Washington allowed only to quiver in the corner as Django's wife Broomhilda.
- © Fairfax NZ News