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Django Unchained review

Friday 25 Jan 2013 4:36 p.m.

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As I was leaving the cinema after seeing Django Unchained, the group of twenty-something's behind me said two things about Quentin Tarantino's latest which stuck with me.

The first was "It was sooo violent it was almost funny!" And the second was "The music was sooo cool". Both of these statements got me thinking, I agree with the latter, but not the former.

Tarantino makes good use of music in this film, the new tracks written for it by John Legend, Rick Ross and Anthony Hamilton had me wanting to dance in my seat. It also packed a powerful punch against the film's stunning backdrops of the deep south of America.

However I don't know about the first comment, at no point did the fact that it was "sooo violent" have me wanting to giggle. I know Tarantino is known for making violent films, but that doesn't mean he can't go overboard, and he has in Django Unchained.

Without spoiling it for those who are thinking of going, I'm going to try giving you an example of where I had to turn away. It happened in two parts.

The first was when the audience is introduced to Mandingo, which is a Gladiator-like fight to the death battle between two black slaves for the amusement of their white masters. The sight of two innocent men being forced to fight to the death with their bare hands is one of the most horrible things I've ever had to watch.

The other part which had my stomach churning was when a man is mauled to death by a dog - no explanation needed. For Tarantino fans though, this may be a drawcard. Violence is the trademark of his work and Django Unchained, I'd say, is one of his most violent I've seen.

On a brighter note, there are other aspects of this film which are highly clever and I really enjoyed. In typical Tarantino style he's defied tradition and made Django Unchained a genre-bender. It's a combination of a spaghetti western fused with a loose historical drama.

He makes references to great westerns like Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly through the use of bold text on screen telling the audience the location of the characters in the film, or what they've been doing or are about to do.

There's also a cameo by Franco Nero, who was in the original Sergio Corbucci 1966 film Django.

Tarantino literally plays with history in Django Unchained too, quite early on in the film there's a scene where a bunch of Ku Klux Klan-types come riding across the desert, only to start complaining about how small the eye-holes in their masks are, which makes them unable to see properly and find the African-American they're after. Not only did the real Ku Klux Klan not appear until a century later, but writing them into the film in such a comical way, in my opinion, is Tarantino's statement about how ignorantly and idiotically some European Americans treated African Americans in the past.

The performance by Christoph Waltz as Dr King Schultz is also particularly good. Dr Schultz is a German bounty hunter who's very well spoken, and highly reasoned and rational in contrast to the rough slave traders he meets. He unlike them, is not swayed by corruption. Waltz recently won a Golden Globe for his role as Dr Schultz and I think it is well deserved.

Jamie Foxx - who plays Django - also has an impressive on screen presence. In interviews Foxx has said he had to work hard to channel the role of an illiterate slave because he is surrounded by wealthy people in Los Angeles on a daily basis. That hard work has paid off, his character is very likable and it's hard not to get behind him when he takes on the ruthless exploiters of the world he inhabits.

Django Unchained is a whole lot of everything with a cherry on top. It's highly, highly violent with too much blood, it's far too clever with many layers, it has stunning scenery, an infectious soundtrack and it harks back to a dark period of US history while merging it with a spaghetti-western.

In other words it's one big entertaining mess of a film.

Four stars.

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     Django Unchained
:: Director: Quentin Tarantino
:: Starring: Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, and Kerry Washington, and Samuel L Jackson
:: Running Time: 165 mins
:: Rating: R16 - Graphic violence & offensive language
:: Release Date: January 23, 2013
:: Trailer: Watch here

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