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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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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DJANGO UNCHAINED (MA15+)
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
PRODUCTION DESIGN: J. Michael Riva
RUNNING TIME: 141 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 24, 2013
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays in February, following a FREE introductory screening on February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.