‘Django’ strikes gold as Quentin Tarantino’s highest-grossing domestic release

Bryan Enk
Movie Talk

Bounty hunting is indeed a lucrative business.

What is often referred to as the Cinema of Cool reached a new box office milestone today as "Django Unchained" makes for the top-grossing North American release of the genre's clown prince, Quentin Tarantino.

"Django" has earned almost $128 million domestically, surpassing the final $120 million-and-change North American box office take of Tarantino's previous film, "Inglourious Basterds" (2009). "Django" also just started opening internationally, where "Basterds" earned an additional $200 million.

Unlike its fellow awards season contender, "Zero Dark Thirty," controversy seems to agree with "Django Unchained" as the film brings in both audiences and accolades. Tarantino was the surprise winner at the Golden Globes earlier this week when he won Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, and "Django" star Christoph Waltz took home Best Supporting Actor. The film is nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor.

"Django" has been under fire since its release for both its liberal use of the N-word and for what many consider to be an overly simplistic and fantastical depiction of slavery. Tarantino's fellow auteur Spike Lee has emerged as the film's most outspoken opponent.

"I can't speak on it 'cause I'm not gonna see it," Lee said in an interview with Vibe. "The only thing I can say is it's disrespectful to my ancestors, to see that film."

Lee also took to Twitter to express other criticisms:

"American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them."

The film has its staunch defenders as well, some of them rather unexpected .... such as Rev. Jesse L. Jackson. In a statement released by the Rainbow Coalition, Jackson defends the film for capturing "the cultural, physical and psychological pain heaped upon the lives of men and women of African descent-expressing in dramatic terms the existential nightmare endured by so many for so long."

Even though the much-debated "Django Unchained" is Tarantino's highest domestic earner to date, it's also his most expensive film with a budget of $100 million. Even though Jamie Foxx's freed slave turned bounty hunter is the fastest gun in the South, some of Tarantino's earlier works had a little more bang for their buck ... especially a little movie called "Pulp Fiction."

"Pulp Fiction" (1994): Domestic Gross $107.9 million; budget $8 million

"Kill Bill Vol. 1" (2003): Domestic Gross $70 million; budget $30 million

"Kill Bill Vol. 2" (2004): Domestic Gross $66 million; budget $30 million

"Inglourious Basterds" (2009): Domestic Gross $120.6 million; budget $70 million

However, "Django" is still going strong at the domestic box office since hitting theaters on December 25 and will no doubt rack up an impressive chunk of change as it commences with opening in international markets this week.