Search the whole of planet Earth, and you’ll find no one who disputes the incontrovertible fact that Christoph Waltz makes an impeccable villain; Amazon certainly agrees, since Waltz leads Prime Video’s new thriller series The Consultant. One performance so magnificently bloodcurdling, it’s almost supernatural (Colonel Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds), was all it took to induct him into the movie villains hall of fame and bag his first of two Academy Awards. Naturally, the American movie system lined up at his doorstep. But Christoph Waltz should get to play good guys too — as he does so well in Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained.
Hollywood, though, loves to typecast, snatching up specific talents and rarely letting them stretch their artistic wings beyond their most recognizable role (especially if the actor hails from another country). Waltz’s established resume of villainy is exactly what The Consultant relies upon to entice viewers. The showrunners know what the audience came for, and the actor doesn’t disappoint as he adds another gleeful sadist to his metaphorical scoreboard.
But. But. Can we please get some duality up in here for this man? Or at least consistent moral ambiguity? After all, Waltz played against type in Django Unchained and won his second Oscar for it, a film where his character skews heroic to the point of sacrificial. And he’s just so dang good at it.
A Brief History of Christoph Waltz’s Hollywood Career
After he swept the 2009 awards season with BasterdsWaltz’s roles have either been middling-to-poor scripts that don’t maximize his capabilities or diverse indie films that failed to earn box office profits. He’s one of those actors who embodies the classic adage of “I’d watch him read the phone book,” but The Green Hornet, Water for Elephants, The Three Musketeers, Big Eyes, and The Legend of Tarzan — even a disappointment specterwhere Waltz inherited the legacy of James Bond’s arch nemesis? And the writing fell flat despite both Waltz’s and Blofeld’s notoriety? Hollywood, you’ve been summoned to the principal’s office.
Some exceptions to the rule popped up, like an introverted computer programmer in The Zero Theoremthe scientist father figure to Alita: Battle Angel, delightful cameos in Muppets Most Wanted and Horrible Bosses 2and an upbeat Death in Rifkin’s Festival. Unfortunately, as mentioned, most of those films came and went with hardly a whisper.
To no one’s surprise, the best utility of Waltz’s range is his two-time collaborator Quentin Tarantino. And instead of copying what worked in Basterds with Django UnchainedTarantino struck new gold with Waltz by dashing full-tilt in the opposite direction. Waltz plays Dr. King Schultz, a dentist-turned-bounty hunter who partners with Jamie Foxx’s titular Django Freeman to rescue Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo di Caprio).
‘Django Unchained’ Plays with Expectations About Christoph Waltz Specifically
Schultz’s introduction immediately plays with audience expectations. It’s eerily similar to Landa’s first scene, with Waltz’s character seizing control of an existing situation through charisma and force. Whether it was intentional or a coincidence born of his acting style, Schultz sharing Landa’s (surface-level ) personality quirks is a masterstroke. Any viewer who’s seen Basterds is watching Django from a metatextual perspective; we’re entertained but on edge, doubting Django’s safety and Schultz’s true motives because we know the terrifying sociopathy Waltz’s charm can conceal. True to form, Schultz is unfairly disarming. around seminally Tarantino lines like “My good man, did you simply get carried away with your dramatic gesture or are you pointing your weapon at me with lethal intent?”
Also in Tarantino tradition, after that “good man” confirms his lethal intent, Schultz wearily sighs like a disappointed teacher before blowing one opponent’s head off and trapping the other beneath his horse. As the latter screams in agony, Schultz requests with sm a wins and chipper tone that he “keep your caterwauling down to a minimum.” His gentlemanly manner and fancy European clothing stand at odds with his easy, extravagant violence — which fuels audience suspicion even though he’s undoubtedly fun to watch.
In a contender for the film’s best scene, Schultz then breezily takes Django to a local salon, makes the racist owner flee in terror, and brazenly calls after him to make sure he alerts the town sheriff, not its marshal. Schultz unceremoniously executes him in the street, holes up in the salon until the marshal arrives, then politely shouts through the doors that he’s a bounty hunter with a signed warrant. Turns out, said sheriff was a wanted criminal. were legally justified, he’s so convincing that the marshal’s armed men lower their guns without the marshal telling them to stand down. Through it all, Schultz sports an affable grin and Waltz makes his dialogue sing.
Christoph Waltz Has to Earn the Audience’s Trust in ‘Django Unchained’ — and He Does
Despite his effervescent nature, Waltz actually underplays the charisma factor compared to Landa. It emerges naturally from Schultz’s personality, whereas Landa’s forced saccharine barely hid the venomous snake in the grass underneath. Both are upbeat and odd, but Landa stars with a predator’s poised, skin-crawling intensity; who loves beer, twirls his mustache during negotiations, and actually says “ta-da” with his entire chest.
It’s after collecting the sheriff’s bounty and granting Django his legal freedom that Schultz’s layers peel away. A man who captures criminals has never freed someone, and Waltz’s demeanor stills in accordant introspection. offers Django a partnership and becomes a mentor of sorts, and the actor makes it clear how chuffed Schultz is by this unexpected development. He glances at his newfound partner with an increasingly proud smile that’s more restrained and therefore more sincere than his usual array; there’ depth behind it. Although he always respected Django’s human dignity, Schultz radiates warmth as the two make their way through the winter. Expectations are successfully subverted.
Once Audience Expectations are Subverted, the Character Arc Begins
Partnering with Django ultimately facilities Schultz’s turning point. He vows to help his friend infiltrate Candie’s plantation and free Broomhilda, and there’s no monetary gain in the venture. He’s too invested after hearing Django speak about his wife; tapped into Schultz’s deeper humanity. The text doesn’t address if Schultz’s bloody business numbered him against true compassion — leaving it to Waltz to answer that ambiguity in a resounding affirmative. Once Schultz meets Broomhilda after face miles of travel overwhelms with fond regard. This is the woman Django would scale mountains and slay dragons for. His voice catches when he greets her, something new from the always unaffected Doctor. of Candie’s racist sister, while his intentionally gentle nod to Broomhilda acts as a silent assurance of her safety before he can verba lly assure her in private.
There isn’t a trace of seductive intent, yet Waltz’s performance in the moment is almost swoon-worthy. And when Django reunites with Broomhilda in an appropriately dramatic fashion, the carefree Schultz reappears: he eagerly leans over to “watch his and Broomhilda’ friend” make his sweeping entrance.
Waltz’s Final Scene in ‘Django Unchained’ Proves His Effectiveness as a Hero
That emergency care is what seals Schultz’s fate. Deceiving Candie to earn his trust made Django ruthless and Schultz hesitant about violence, a clear role reversal. And Schultz always found slavery repulsive, but he true’s a privileged white man who never witnessed’ rightfully haunted by his choice to stand by while Candie fed D’Artagnan (Ato Essandoh), an escaped Black man, to Candie’s dogs, as well as Candie’s repellant brutality toward Broomhilda. Schultz visibly cracks little by little until he finally snaps (indicated by Waltz’s flinches and his flustered line deliveries in hadarliernoheten Eldarliernohe totion) of dying in some backwater state, and then he murders Candie in a fevered rage despite knowing that instantly makes him a dead man walking. His previous assassinations were emotionless — Candie is an act of fury based on Schultz’s personal sense of justice. Of course, he doesn’t regret the choice, shrugging with a final ironic smile and apt farewell to his one and only friend: “Sorry. I couldn’t resist.”
Django was over a decade ago and still feels like a breath of fresh air. The material’s depth let Waltz earn a death more heroic than anything else in Tarantino’s repertoire precisely because it played against his established Hollywood type. The actor’s playfully unpredictable energy and intense presence channeled into the opposite end of the moral spectrum. The Consultant is a perfectly bingeable drama, but will someone now fix the problem of Waltz’s untapped potential, please?