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Django KIll: If You Live, Shoot!

cast: Tomas Milian, Ray Lovelock, Marilu Tolo, and Roberto Carmadiel

director: Giulio Questi

112 minutes (15) 2003
widescreen ratio 16:9
Argent DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
A bandit known only as The Stranger is double-crossed and left for dead by his confederates, only to be rescued by two Native Americans who melt his share of the stolen gold into bullets and encourage his mission of vengeance. But his former allies have run into trouble of their own... They've fetched up in a frontier town that the Native Americans know only as The Unhappy Place, where the saloon owner and a moralistic preacher rapidly relieve them of the gold. However, sadistic rancher Mr Zorro and his band of hedonistic (and strangely well-dressed) gunmen want the gold, too, and soon everyone wants The Stranger's help and protection. As the town self-destructs around him, who will end up with the gold..?

Despite the cover blurb and Alex Cox's enthusiastic assertions in the accompanying documentary, and even with previously cut scenes restored, Django Kill isn't half as shocking as it once was. (For a start, the blood is very obviously red paint...) What it is, however, is a solid and visually striking story of human greed, the absence of law, and the selfish depravity that it leads to. The characters are surprisingly well fleshed-out, and almost everyone has their own personal tragedy to play out during the action.

Questi's superb direction conjures a sense of surreal menace from the moment the outlaws arrive in town, to be greeted by empty streets and brief, disconcerting glimpses of everyday life: a naked toddler, a child trying to wake a drunk relative, a woman in a window biting a man's hand. This is a place where normal rules don't apply, and love and family affection are doomed from the start. Tomas Milian is suitably enigmatic as The Stranger, and Roberto Camardiel's affable, deadly Mr Zorro is an enjoyable villain. But it's the tone of the film; it's bleak dissection of compassion and morality, that's the real attraction here. This is an early attempt at HBO's Deadwood, if you like: the west as it really was, brutal and greedy. It's a hugely enjoyable and rather profound film that should appeal even to those who don't think they like westerns.

DVD extras comprise interesting interviews with the director and one of the cast, an introduction by filmmaker Alex Cox, a trailer, and trailers for other spaghetti westerns.

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