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By MARK TURNER
Quentin Tarantino has never been one to shy away from controversy. From his first film, RESERVOIR DOGS, he jumped into filmmaking head-first, creating films he wanted to see and that apparently the rest of the world has too.
The best part of this has been the fact that in doing so he's created some of the most original films around. Such is the case with his newest film, what many thought was a remake of the classic Franco Nero spaghetti western (he even does a cameo here) but is something altogether different.
DJANGO UNCHAINED starts off with the excessive bloodshed that Tarantino fans have come to know. Taking place shortly before the Civil War, Dr. King Schultz (Chritoph Waltz) is a traveling dentist who comes across two hunters transporting a group of runaway slaves back to the south. After enquiring about purchasing one to a negative response, he shoots one and wounds the other then "purchases" the slave, a man named Django (Jamie Foxx).
It seems that Schultz has actually given up the practice of dentistry and now makes a living as a bounty hunter. His reason for seeking out Django is that he can identify the men Schultz is currently seeking, high money bounties that will serve his pocketbook. In return for his help he tells Django he will pay him and give him his freedom. When Django tells him his story and how he wants to search for his wife who was sold Schultz agrees to help him with that as well.
When Django tells him his story and how he wants to search for his wife who was sold Schultz agrees to help him with that as well if they can continue on earning enough money before hand. The two travel across the country seeking out the bad guys who seem to pay well for their capture, dead or alive. Along the way the become friends and Schultz teaches Django the tools of the trade to the point where Django becomes one of the fastest guns around.
A year passes and eventually the pair track down the men Schultz was searching for to begin with. They collect their bounty and then put into motion the plan it will take to not only find Django's wife but to get her back again. She's been sold to one of the worst plantations in the south, a place known as Candyland and owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DeCaprio). Candie is a man Schultz realizes will not be interested in just selling Django's wife. Instead they will have to con him into inviting them to his home and finding a way to get him to want to sell her.
The plan goes along fine until Stephen (Samuel Jackson), Candie's house slave, begins to think something is up. With his advising Candie the question of whether or not Django will be reunited with his wife or end up once more a slave comes into question.
With a hot topic like slavery it becomes apparent where the controversy Tarantino arrived from. Depictions of somewhat historically accurate moments in history that many would like to forget are on display in living color. Whippings, dogs turned loose on slaves, branding and more are there for all to see. It does make you feel uncomfortable to watch but at the same time is an effective way to build an understanding of the character of Django and why he acts and does the things he does.
What seemed to garner more press was the use of the "n" word throughout the film. Yes, it truly is a despicable word to be tossed around freely but then again you have to understand that this is a film set in a period of time when it was commonly used and not in the most flattering ways. This was the language used at the time and can be seen not only used by the slave owners but the slaves themselves. Tarantino's decision to use it here seems more realistic than if something had been used in its place. In so doing the vulgarity and ugliness of the word become apparent.
This is one of Tarantino's better films. There rarely seems a time when you find yourself checking your watch to see if it's over or not. The acting is tremendous here with each actor so enmeshed in their characters that you actually believe they are who they are portraying. Over the top scenes seem natural for some of these characters, especially those involving DeCaprio.
DJANGO UNCHAINED may not be a film for everyone, but those less sensitive and fans of Tarantino will not walk away unhappy. Instead they'll be pleased to see he's made another film that may cause plenty of talk around the table but at least isn't the usual film to come out of Hollywood.
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