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For some, Quentin Tarantino, the auteur who gave us Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and Inglorious Basterds, is the epitome of all that is wrong with modern media. Intentionally provocative, at times deliberately transgressive, his films explore themes that are too often taboo within our culture and exploit the discomfort we often feel when such explorations are not constrained within the boundaries of political correctness, or perhaps even good taste.

Jamie Foxx as Django

For others, Tarantino is Steven Spielberg's darker foil, a supremely skilled director who is most comfortable in traditional and familiar narrative genres, but whose talent and vision often elevate and invigorate the stories that have become stale with convention and cliché.

Both sides of that debate will find fodder for their arguments in Django Unchained, a (nearly) three-hour revenge quest/sting caper caked in blood and steeped in dark humor. The story begins when King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a bounty hunter, buys the slave Django (Jamie Foxx) to help him identify a particularly valuable bounty. Schultz detests slavery, he explains, but he is willing to use it to his advantage. If Django will help him, he promises to give Django a percentage of his earnings and, eventually, his freedom.

Django turns out to be a natural at the bounty hunter profession—so much so that Schultz makes a deal with him to come on as a partner, promising that once they work for a season, Schultz will help Django find and free his wife. Most of the second half of the film depicts an elaborate con job conceived by Schultz to convince a notorious plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), to sell them Django's wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), without ...

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