Revenge is a dish best served cold and Quentin Tarantino turns the temperature gauge to subzero in this blood-soaked western inspired by Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 revenge thriller Django starring Franco Nero.
Set in 1858, Django Unchained energises a simple tale of redemption with the writer-director’s characteristic flair behind the lens and on the page.
A superfluous interlude with poorly prepared Ku Klux Klan members, who can barely see out of hoods made by one of their wives, is hysterical.
Tarantino guns down political correctness at every turn, not least with the creation of a black slave, played with fire and brimstone-spouting fury by Samuel L Jackson, who is even more racist than his white masters.
It’s little wonder that fellow film-maker Spike Lee, who has taken Tarantino to task for his love of the n-word in the past, has courted controversy by publicly stating his intention to boycott Django Unchained because it is disrespectful to his ancestors.
The bullets start flying ‘somewhere in Texas’ when two slave merchants, the Speck brothers, meet a German dentist called Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) on the road one night.
It turns out that the flamboyant European is also a bounty hunter and Schultz kills the Specks in order to release slave Django (Jamie Foxx) from his shackles.
Django is valuable because he the only man who can identify the murderous Brittle brothers.
Having been granted his freedom, Django agrees to help Schultz kill the siblings.
Django subsequently learns that his beloved wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) has fallen into the clutches of a slippery plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), and Schultz pledges his allegiance on a suicidal rescue mission.
Django Unchained boasts some bravura sequences including slow-motion gun fights and snappy flashbacks.
However, you can have too much of a good thing.
Tarantino’s vision runs to a buttock-numbing 165 minutes and hollers - unheard - for a judicious editor to prune the extraneous guff.
He could happily lose swathes of the final act, including scenes when the director plies a laughable accent as a bumbling Australian slave driver.
Foxx is tightly wound as a vengeful husband, playing the straight man to larger-than-life performances from Waltz, DiCaprio and Jackson.
The love story with Washington has some surprisingly tender moments but whenever it seems Tarantino might be going soft, his characters unleash a blitzkrieg of expletives and cock their pistols.
By Damon Smith