|The Plot: In a world unlike any other, we placed in ancient Japan or a movie version of it at least – where the battles are not waged with swords or staffs, but with pistols and rifles. In a town where gangs have taken over in search for the towns treasure, two factions have split the entire populace. The red gang is lead by a psychopathic murdering madman with more than just a small attitude problem, who kills at the drop of a hat. The white gang is lead by their pretty-boy marksman leader who is equally as powermad but only not as flamboyant in his craziness. In the middle of this war between the two, there walks a man into town that no one has ever seen but soon learns to fear. A gunman with amazing talents and a will to survive. One way or another, this new entrant into the war will bring an end to all of this madness.|
The Review: I have probably seen close to thirty of Takashi Miike’s films, which doesn’t make me any real expert on the man’s films (not when you have guys like Tom Mes out there) but I’ve seen a lot of his work and am a huge fan. However recently I have pretty much burned myself out on his work. I don’t know how, I suppose it was after sitting through Izo which was a good film but felt more like Miike doing what is expected of him rather than being as creative as he normally has been. I have just seemingly lost interest in most of Miike’s tremendous output here lately – which I shouldn’t because every time I watch a new Miike film I am constantly reminded of just why I love his films in the first place. Sukiyaki is no different, as it shows Miike at his most accessible and also at his most creative. Why he made the choices he did with the film, I cannot imagine but overall the film works so well that I can only be amazed. Not everyone shares my enthusiasm as you may already know while searching for the film, but Western Django is of course a Japanese production – but for whatever reason, all of the cast do their best to speak English within the film. What was the choice in this? I’m not sure, I have read those who have said it was making light of Americans and our intolerance to any language outside of the English language – but that doesn’t really seem in keeping with the constant loving portrayal of the American western and mostly the Italian western. I think if I were not familiar with the spaghetti western Django or many of Corbucci’s films, some of the references would be lost and I could imagine where one might get the idea that this film has a higher aim than simply being a Japanese western. However, I view Sukiyaki Western Django as a loving tribute to the spaghetti western genre in all of it’s muddy, gritty and violent glory.
The biggest problem most have seemed to have with the film is the English dialogue from the all-Japanese cast. Well, of course they are a little hard to understand at times but I won’t act like I would do any better at speaking Japanese. What really surprises me with the film is how the performances seem undisturbed by the lack of an understanding language for the cast. There are many standout roles here, and thanks to that about halfway through the film I began to hear through the accents and enjoy the performances for what they are. Equally impressive for me was the actual script, which featured many American phrases I wouldn’t expect to see coming from a Japanese production. I reckon they did their homework! The whole basis for the film is just so strange and beautiful, and it reminds me a lot of a theory created by one of the cast; Mr. Quinton Tarantino. He has stated numerous times that he often creates films that either take place in a “real world” such as Pulp Fiction, or films that take place in a “realer than real world”, such as in Kill Bill. In this realer than real world, everything is exagerated and genre specific and these make up the movies that the characters in his “real world” would likely go see at their movie theaters. Western Django strikes me as a film living in the universe of cinema, and the ending sets this up in my opinion as (and this isn’t such a terrible spoiler to ruin anything) it all but claims to be a prequel to Sergio Corbucci’s film Django. This of course seems impossible and if you’re familiar with both films you will know why when you see it, but then again everything about this film seems impossible and yet still works. From the memorable (either for being so much fun, or so scary) characters to the action pieces which are simply stunning – Sukiyaki Western Django is as fun as the genre it looks to emulate has ever been!
Does the film stand up with the majority of Miike’s other great work? I absolutely think so with no hesitation, but does that mean everyone is going to like it? Not at all. I think this film is going to speak to Spaghetti Western fans who also have a love for Miike’s style of looney filmmaking. I think of the films I have seen where Miike has taken a lead role in writing it, this might be my favorite or at least tied right alongside the equally brilliant and strange Gozu. It’s all in the eyes of the viewer however, but I know I absolutely loved it and encourage others to set out and see on their own just how great or bad it is for themselves.