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Originally published December 24, 2012 at 8:49 AM | Page modified December 24, 2012 at 8:48 AM

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‘Django Unchained’: Tarantino’s anti-slavery Western goes to bloody extremes

A movie review of “Django Unchained,” Quentin Tarantino’s anti-slavery spaghetti Western that intends to comment on the odious nature of slavery but drowns in a sea of blood.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 1.5 stars

“Django Unchained,” with Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. 165 minutes. Rated R for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language and some nudity. Several theaters.

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There will be blood.

Geysering, fountaining, spattering a field of white cotton bolls with crimson droplets.

There will be foul language.

“Django Unchained” surely sets some kind of record for the most uses of one of the foulest racial epithets on the planet.

There will be controversy.

There usually is with Quentin Tarantino’s movies.

Whether it’s the ear-slicing violence of “Reservoir Dogs” or the apocalyptic historical revisionism of “Inglourious Basterds” (Hitler machine-gunned and immolated in a movie theater by Jewish commandos), Tarantino’s movies are extreme to the extreme. “Django” follows the pattern.

It’s an anti-slavery spaghetti Western, if you can wrap your mind around that peculiar amalgamation. Such is the nature of Tarantino’s bent of mind. And “Django” is certainly seriously bent.

Set before the Civil War, it tracks the adventures of Django (Jamie Foxx), a freed slave, and Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz, stealing every scene again, as he did in “Basterds,” with a confident and disarmingly jovial performance), a German bounty hunter who buys and frees Django and teaches him the bounty-hunting trade. They travel across the South, coldbloodedly executing outlaws for reward money until they eventually wind up at a Mississippi plantation where Django’s wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), is enslaved. Django and the doctor mean to free her. The plantation owner, Calvin Candie, a smooth-talking racist monster played with maximum malignancy by Leonardo DiCaprio, has a problem with that. Much gunfire and a titanic explosion ensue. The body count at the climax climbs to the heavens.

That ending echoes the climax of “Inglourious Basterds.” This time, though, there are two huge concluding shootouts. It seems Tarantino is starting to repeat himself, both from movie to movie and within the structure of this particular movie as well.

His penchant for excess runs away with him. He intends to comment on the odious nature of slavery by portraying the slavers as repellent brutes, spewing that epithet and degrading their slaves with sadistic fervor. In one scene, a slave is ripped to pieces by dogs at Candie’s order. The scene makes the point, and it’s sickening.

Tarantino wants “Django” to be a rousing yarn as well as a commentary, but the movie so revels in its carnage that his larger point is drowned in a sea of blood.

Soren Andersen:

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