March 1, 2013
Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on March 2013
Quentin Tarantino’s flamboyant, gleefully violent, fiercely profane and, yes, pulpy revenge carny show grabs you early and keeps you brilliantly if brutally entertained right up to its explosive ending 2:45 later. Jamie Foxx stars, and he’s very good, but it’s impossible to overstate the pivotal importance of Christoph Waltz (an Oscar for Inglourious Basterds and one for this) as a traveling dentist in the antebellum South who buys the title slave (Foxx) to help him in his flourishing bounty-hunting side-business (dead or alive, preferably the former). He grants him his freedom because he finds slavery distasteful, and helps him track down and rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from her villainous owner (Leonardo DiCaprio, having fun). And mention must be made of Samuel L. Jackson as a shockingly despicable privileged house slave, a sort of proto-Oreo. You could call this “Tarantino Unchained,” as the director ingeniously manages to address serious social and ethical issues and directly challenge taboos while at the same time being shamelessly irresponsible and astonishingly funny. One scene has the fledgling Ku Klux Klan (led by Don Johnson) whining that the eyeholes in their hoods make it hard to see where they’re going. QT’s best in years.