Unlisted: Django Unchained (2012)

Race is such an awkward subject in film. So much of film media flows out of America, so anything trying to deal with race stands a good chance of being tinted by America’s guilty past with slavery. The whole situation seems so volatile still after some two centuries (to an outsider, at least) that it’s impossible to have any discussion about race without someone either being offended or taking great pains to avoid anyone else being offended. If there are people out there touchy enough to be offended (or get offended on behalf of others) by Django Unchained, then maybe it’s a good thing that there are provocateurs like Quentin Tarrentino to actually start discussion in the first place.

Despite the pre-Civil War Southern trappings, Django Unchained is pure blaxploitation; our hero Django (Jamie Foxx) rides a horse with a tricked-out saddle, wears some impossibly outlandish outfits, and fights The Man – Calvin Candie, a horrendous cracker of a plantation owner played by Leonardo DiCaprio giving his best performance in a film to date – to free his woman (Kerry Washington), backed by a funky soul soundtrack. The film opens with Django being quite literally unshackled from slavery by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) (and yes, don’t think that little joke went unnoticed), a bounty hunter with a more enlightened view on human servitude who needs Django’s help in identifying some targets, and follows him learing the manhunting trade to culminate in (extremely) bloody revenge at the Candie plantation. This can very much be viewed as a companion film to Inglourious Basterds, in that both are revenge/empowerment fantasies against slow-moving targets (Nazis and slave owners), but where Basterds puts more focus on the tension of its characters not being uncovered before they can engage in sabotage, Django takes time to show off the sheer ignorance and stupidity of slavers and the whole slave culture. Every small-minded racist facet builds towards the climax where Django gets to open fire and cut a bloody swath through the plantation, and you cheer for each oppressor that gets blown away. This is the empowerment of blaxplotation giving a modern face, and if you are able to somehow view that as racist based on how often the dreaded n-word comes up, then maybe you need to reexamine some things in your life.

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