Direction: Quentin Tarantino
Actors: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo di Caprio
In Hollywood the king of cool still rules. Quentin Tarantino, whose last film was the World War II revenge fantasy lnglourious Basterds (2009), now ventures into the pre-Civil War America to address issues of race and slavery. The outcome is an audacious cinematic homage to the second-string spaghetti westerns of the 1960s. It also works as a meditation on vengeance, violence and the virulent racism prevalent in the Deep South at the end of the 19th century. In other words, Django Unchained is brutal, blood-soaked and brilliant.
In one of the breeziest two-and-three-quarter hours you're likely to spend at a multiplex, this 'Southern' (the director's own description) begins with a bravura sequence. Somewhere in Texas, circa 1858, the eponymous slave (Foxx) is freed from his shackles by a German dentist-turned-bounty hunter (Waltz).
In return, the liberated black man must help his abolitionist saviour identify and bring to justice a trio of redneck outlaws. After Django (the D is silent, he cheekily asserts) is unchained, it's on to the sprawling Mississippi cotton plantation where his still-enslaved wife (Kerry Washington) is forced into sexual bondage by the ruthless owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Alternately humourous and horrific, the narrative winds down in a finale which ensures an explosive payoff not only for the titular hero but the viewer as well. Tarantino infuses the proceedings with an array of filmic references, a heap of gun-toting action and a very strong emotional undercurrent.
The enfant terrible of contemporary cinema has written wickedly funny dialogue for his colourful characters. With characteristic abandon, the word n*gger is sprinkled liberally throughout the film.
No matter how grave the situation, it's counterbalanced by bits of absurdist humour. Who but Quentin Tarantino, for instance, would stage a Klu Klux Klan-style vigilante raid during which the gunslingers argue about their hooded apparel?
Put simply, Django Unchained is the zingiest entertainment of the year.