There’s something profoundly infantile about Quentin Tarantino’s quest to right the wrongs of history. Last time round he was retroactively bitchslapping the Nazis for the Holocaust. Here he’s punishing Americans who accrued obscene wealth out of slavery. In both films baddies galore get royally ketchupped. What’s next? Backdated justice for the Injuns? Oh shoot, Disney already pulled off that judicial backflip in Pocahontas.
Django Unchained is a kind of spaghetti Blaxploitation epic. It’s immensely entertaining in bits – usually when Christoph Waltz is on screen reprising his casuistical killer with the oh-so-reasonable rictus from Inglorious Basterds. This time his oddball Teutonic bounty hunter is on the side of the angels, assisting Jamie Foxx’s sharpshooting freed slave on his Wagnerian revenge quest to free his wife Broomhilde from the clutches of Leonardo di Caprio’s satanic Mississippi landowner.
You can enjoy all Tarantino’s encyclopaedic nods and winks to B movie grammar – zooming lenses, Morricone on soundtrack duties etc – plus a galumphing cameo from the man himself. But is it enough, or actually too much? While feasting on a bloated platter of cinematic sweetmeats, you have to wonder whether the film’s didactic purpose is served by Tarantino’s childlike lust for gun-toting sensation and finger-pointing ridicule. You laugh, you quake, you holler and cheer (and in one bone-crunching wrestling sequence you damn well block your ears). It wouldn’t do any harm to learn a bit too. The only surprise is Samuel L Jackson’s retainer conniving at the oppression of his fellow blacks.
The DVD’s one extra of note is a documentary about the production design of J Michael Riva, who died during the shoot. The film is certainly a testament to his gifts, a fully realised evocation of both the Wild West and the Deep South with lovely eccentric touches such as the wobbling molar on the roof of Waltz’s wagon. In short (though it’s very long), a guilty pleasure.