Sukiyaki Western Django Reviews
If this analysis appears to be too critical or negative, look at which famous director makes an eye-rolling cameo in the opening scene: the poster child for hip, self-referential cinema and the man who has single-handedly killed film art forever, Mr. Quentin Tarantino. Miike is better than this.
The biggest problem for me (aside from Tarantino's HORRIBLE "acting") was some of the casts attempts at "English".
While I GET the appeal in this case of having the cast speaking old school "American"...I almost feel like the accents were SO thick at times that I missed out on some of the nuances of the dialog and story in general.
It has it's moments of pure Miike genius (like the gun battles and it's off-key humor) but it suffers from too much dialogue and unneeded exposition.
Django: A cult film considered by many as one of the best examples of the spaghetti western, with a stirring musical score, gunfights, and a quiet anti-hero who famously drags a coffin.
Taking these definitions from some of the promotional material I've read for Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django saves a lot of time in trying to explain this eclectic film. As the title metaphor implies, it's a mixed pot of flavors. There's a bit of the West, a bit of the East, and even a cameo appearance by Quentin Tarantino.
Loosely speaking, it's a western action movie. It features a Clint Eastwood-style man with no name (played by Hideaki Ito), a lone gunfighter who's playing two rival gangs against each other for his own purposes. As director Miike explains in a making-of featurette, you already know this story, so skip trying to understand it and get straight to enjoying it.
Miike is best known in the United States for his extremely violent and perverse horror and action films, such as Audition and Ichi the Killer. Yet he's one of Japans most prolific filmmakers, with over 70 films, TV specials, and videos to his credit. He?s worked in a number of different genres and styles, and that range is profoundly evident in Sukiyaki Western Django.
One of the most fascinating things about watching this movie is how familiar everything is, yet how strange it seems. Miike has his Japanese cast speak English as best they can, imbuing clichéd lines that we've all heard thousands of times with strange rhythms. The costuming is based in westerns but given a punk edge. There are gunfights and swordfights and mixtures of the two that blend the traditional iconographies of spaghetti westerns and samurai epics into a unique style.
And style is really what the film is all about. For some, it will be off-putting,a film so impressed with its own inventiveness that it fails to draw them in. For others, it'll be a sublime mixture of the pop culture of multiple eras'a high-speed, full-color Frankenstein messiah for genres that have long since ceased being innovative. While I could endlessly pick apart and analyze its idiosyncrasies, I'll take a page from Miike and just say that it's a pretty damned cool ride. But it really all depends, I suppose, on how you like your sukiyaki.
The resulting action is frenetic, inventive and plenty. And check out the cameo performance by Quentin Tarantino.
I don't mean to get all xenophobic up in here, especially since the rest of the movie is pretty great. The gunplay is exciting and Takashi Miike's filming is the strongest it's ever been. The movie gets excessive at times, but Miike wraps his world in enough subtle quirk to keep this from becoming a chronic problem. The plot looks like nothing interesting - again, I can't really tell you for sure since we all tuned out the dialogue - but I'll be damned if this wasn't a style-over-substance exercise for Miike anyway. This film is definitely not for everyone, but if you're in the mood for a beautifully violent Western homage, check this one out.
P.S. an open note to Quentin Tarantino: stop acting. You are wasting our time and yours. Stay behind the camera.
Takashi Miike (I don't know the guy's previous works) is apparently a big shot director in Japan and his latest film "Sukiyaki Western Django" is an ode to Italian spaghetti Westerns and directors like Corbucci, Leone and Kurosawa. The film is about a gunslinger who is thrust in the middle of a town where two warring clans, the White Genjis and the Red Heikes, duke it out for the rumored treasure hidden deep in the town.
When I first heard about the film, I expected a lot of good old shootouts, above awesome dialogs and really, really cool characters. Upon watching it I only ended up with the really cool characters. The dialogs and script was not that bad but it would be really cool if the characters aren't stuttering with their "engrish". I honestly cannot understand what they're saying, I found it really hard to keep track with the flow of the story. The action is a complete zero. Its like hunting down the Loch Ness and you end up with a tadpole. The big showdown in the end wasn't really that cool and the supposed climax was a quick 5 second fight scene between the Gunman and the Genji leader.
Halfway through the film you'll find yourself painfully listen to the engrish these characters speak and you'd rather just get on with the ending than endure the carabao language, bad dialog and bizarre scenarios. On a positive note, the characters in the film looked really cool even though they were drenched in either white or red. Was there a dress code back in the 1100's?
The Genji leader, sporting a frizzy windblown hairstyle, is a skilled gunman and swordsman. His coolness factor went off the roof when he shot his gun sideways and the bullet went straight to the poor guy with red highlights. The Heike leader's coolness factor went off the charts when he shot the white boys with a gatling gun. Quentin Tarantino makes an appearance as Bloody Benten's husband, Ringo. Bloody Benten is a skilled marksman with eight hands, figuratively speaking. She helps the Gunman in the end but is soon killed by a conniving Gollum-like Sheriff.
"Sukiyaki" is style over substance. It had so much style that it affected the substance. 2.5/5
For a movie with Quentin Tarantino playing a role, it is strange that, outside of an anachronistic anime reference, the cultural references actually rely a lot on Shakespeare, especially Henry VI. So much so, that the red leader Kiyomori(Koichi Sato) takes the name of Henry, as he explains the connection to The War of the Roses. No, this is not the Michael Douglas/Kathleen Turner/Danny DeVito movie he is talking about but the English wars of succession in the 15th century.(Regardless, the movie is very much recommended.) Although with the red and the white, the Russian Civil War works just as well. And as long as we are talking about Shakespeare, then there must be a doomed romance whch comes in the person of Akira(Shun Oguri) and Shizuka(Yoshino Kimura) from separate gangs who married and had a child before Akira was gunned down by his own gang. Her rescue from the whites kicks off the gunslinger's involvement in the bloody conflict.
I knew this was going to be a train wreck five minutes into it, but tried to look for the positive and be open to the experience. Half an hour later, I just gave up on this piece of junk. Added downfall: That three minutes of Quentin Tarantino "acting" will be burned into my retinas for all of eternity. Aaaaagggg.
I think the only negative thing I have to say about this flick is that it was pretty obvious the Japanese cast learned their English lines phonetically, which lead to some awkward deliveries and lost lines here and there. Other than that, you've got a tried-and-true story of two warring factions, and a nameless gunman stuck in the middle. Add to that mix some inspired, gleefully excessive (but not in a bad way) shootouts, and you've got yourself a treat unlike any other.