Quentin Tarantino is known for walking a risky line in dealing with race in his films, and completely flies past it when it comes to the use of violence.
His latest film, called Django Unchained, is no different and the setting of the slave-filled American south in the years prior to the Civil War has many crying foul at his use of racial slurs.
This is not the first time that Tarantino has been criticized for his use of the n-word, as Spike Lee took issue with its use in the 1997 film Jackie Brown where the controversial director allowed it to be used 38 times.
The latest film, which will open on Christmas Day, focuses on the partnership between a former slave who becomes a bounty hunter who enjoys killing white people in his pursuit for his captured wife.
A screening of the film on Tuesday led to reviews that warn of extreme violence and excessive cursing.
‘Quite naturally, given the historical setting, the N-word gets a heavy workout, by whites and blacks alike. But much more forceful is the cruelty dispensed by the Southern whites, both as punishment and whim,’ a review in The Hollywood Reporter says.
Among the scarring acts are instances when attack dogs are released on a man, and black fighters are forced to fight to the death in an ornate drawing room simply for the entertainment of a white plantation owner.
Trailers for the film make no attempts to veil the violence, as the main character Django, played by Jamie Foxx, is shown to have painful scars on his back to imply that he had a history of being beaten.
Adding to the inherent violence is the fact that Foxx pairs up with Christopher Waltz’s character of Dr. King Schultz, a German bounty hunter who comes to Texas looking to kill a set of brothers that Django is able to identify.
The pair go on a coordinated killing spree looking for the brothers in question, and using their guns and whips as a way of achieving vengeance.
At one point, Schultz asks Django if he enjoys his new role as a bounty hunter, and the former slave replies ‘Kill white folks and they pay you for it- What’s not to like?’
Foxx used the same line during his opening monologue while hosting Saturday Night Live last week- as part of the promotion of the film- and brushed off the ensuing criticism saying that he is a comedian and it is meant as a joke.
‘Of course there are hot button issues– the language and violence, and everything like that but the way (the film) landed, I mean when you watch this play in front of an audience, it’s amazing,’ Foxx said of the film during an appearance on The Today Show.
‘It takes you to those moments that are dark and tough to watch, but (there) are a lot of moments that come from out of nowhere that makes the whole audience bubble up.’
The actor has some personal connections to the racial prejudices shown in the film, and during one press event he said that he was frequently faced with the n-word while growing up in Texas.
‘Being called a n***** as a young kid by white people was something I had to deal with,’ Foxx said.
‘Having that done to me I was able to grasp what was going on in the script. When a project becomes magic and special it means that at certain points in the script it parallels your story.’
He is not the only prominent African American to have embraced the sensitive material, as the actor said that a number of his friends including Oprah Winfrey have seen the film and, because they came in braced for the typical Tarantino level of violence, they enjoyed it overall.