First, the cynical: One wonders whether making a movie that takes place in the pre-Civil War American South is Quentin Tarantino's way of getting around criticism for using the n-word.

Second, the straight-up: Django Unchained is loads of fun.

For years, I've railed against Tarantino. I don't like his dialogue (all his characters sound the same); I don't like his derivations from better (and worse) directors; I don't like his fanboys.

But something in Django Unchained clicks. Maybe it's because a lot of white, racist, asshole rednecks get the shit killed out of them. Or maybe this cast is Tarantino's best ever, with delicious (yes, delicious) performances from Christoph Waltz (who may be the greatest acting find of the early 21st century), Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L Jackson.

Jamie Foxx is an appropriately stoic man-with-no-nameish title character.

Waltz and DiCaprio are having so much fun the giddiness is infectious. Good thing, too, because Django is shockingly violent, even for Tarantino.

The gunshots are cartoonish, but there are scenes—two men fight brutally to the death; one man is torn apart by dogs—that are gut-churning in their realism.

Still, Django Unchained is a hoot, even if it's 30 minutes too long.

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino / With Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio / Regal Santa Fe Stadium 14 / R / 165 min.