Given the nature of Takashi Miike’s work, it’s only natural that someday he and Quintin Tarantino would cross paths, which is exactly what happened with Sukiyaki Western Django. Please note that this is not a Tarantino film, which anyone who hears about this movie seems to think. This is the legendary Miike’s sendup to the Spaghetti Western genre and my first foray into it, so in essence I may have not been the best person for the job. The film, for the uninitiated is essentially a Japanese Western with native Japanese speakers speaking English with an American twang. Phew. That particular concept, while cool in theory, is actually is convoluted in practice as the dialogue was difficult to understand without subtitles and unfortunately the copy I reviewed was a rough cut from the studio; so I wasn’t allowed that luxury.
Plot in 13 Words
A Spaghetti Western, with Japanese People Trying to Speak English, and Tarantino too
The film takes place somewhere in rural Nevada and revolves around two rival gangs that ru the town, the Gankes and the Henkes (White). The Man with No Name enters town to bring peace and protect the townspeople. The movie then becomes an all-out back and forth between to two gangs to get him, while destroying each other in the process. The themes here are familiar ones (revenge, family, honor, rape) and there aren’t very many laughs to go around. The overall pace of Sukiyaki is slow when it detracts from the action. Which I felt was a bit too much for the movie it was, at a running time of almost an hour forty-five minutes (apparently was already cut down by 26 minutes) the drama can get a little bit tiring. At points during the film, especially during the dramatic sequences, the strange accents make it feel lifeless, though the actual performance by the actors are great. The movie however, definitely isn’t without its merits. What this movie lacks in a paper thin plot makes up with great cinematography and brilliant use of color. Let’s not leave out the gun-fighting scenes which combine a bit of Samuari and the occasional machine make for some dynamic death scenes.
Never one to leave himself out of any feature that’s got a hint of his name in it, Tarantino opens and closes the film in a story-telling montage I didn’t fully understand (though it began to make a bit more sense around the third viewing). However, the mash-up of Miike’s gruesomeness with Tarantino’s style feels bland and kind of phoned in–the film being very minimal on the special effects with traditional Kill Bill-esque montages and sequences thrown in here and there to keep your attention focused when the movie drags on a bit.
I’d have to say that my review is a bit marred by the rough version which dulled my attention span and many of the action scenes that I would have other wise enjoyed with a sharp version of the film or on the big screen. However it’s coming out on DVD next week, and worth a watch, especially on Blu-ray I’d imagine–just be sure to rock the subtitles when viewing, you’ll thank me later.
Review by Jasmine Blocker