Django Unchained

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(2012) ★★½

Channel 5: PREMIERE Sunday 6 December, 10pm

Bounty hunter Christoph Waltz helps runaway slave Jamie Foxx in his quest to rescue his wife Kerry Washington from a Mississippi plantation. There’s no tension in this spaghetti western pastiche because to writer-director Quentin Tarantino everything’s simply an opportunity to show off. The weirdly off-putting vibe – an unruly mix of Mandingo and Blazing Saddles – is emphasised by Waltz’s winking performance.

It’s the kind of turn given by an actor who’s keen to let the audience in on every post-modern joke, however weak. Waltz bagged the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, even though he’s clearly the leading man. Then Waltz doubled up at Bafta. Bizarre. Especially when considered alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman’s nominated turn in The Master. Proper acting. Will Smith turned down Django because he realised Waltz was the main character.

In fact, Django himself is plain dull, and there’s nothing Jamie Foxx can do about it but scowl for two and three-quarter hours. Samuel L. Jackson gives the best performance. He’s a scary man. As a treatise on slavery, Django’s about as authentic as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Unsurprisingly, it lacks the moral authority of a couple of comparatively minor comedy westerns from the late-60s and early-70s, The Scalphunters (with Burt Lancaster and Ossie Davis) and Skin Game (with James Garner and Louis Gossett).

Equally predictably, it’s hellishly long, but that’s all part of Tarantino’s indiscipline. A shame, really, that there are no longer drive-ins. That’s where his films belong. Mind you, they’d have had to chop most of them in half. The soundtrack is the usual QT mix of good, bad and stupid. Rap music? Really? Even Young Guns didn’t aim that low. Play that funky music, white boy. His latest ride into the sunset, The Hateful Eight, promises more – much more – of the same. After the hateful Death Proof, Kurt Russell returns in a big ensemble cast. But the ever-underrated Kurt’s better utilised in the authentically savage Bone Tomahawk. Proper acting.

Certificate: 18

Duration: 165min

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