Sukiyaki Western Django

Movies Reviews Takashi Miike
Sukiyaki Western Django

Release Date: Aug. 29 (limited)

Director: Takashi Miike

Writers: Takashi Miike and Masa Nakamura

Cinematographer: Simon Duggan

Starring: Hideaki Ito, Koichi Sato, Quentin Tarantino, Masanobu Ando

Studio/Run Time: First Look International, 121 mins.

Sukiyaki Western Django is about mixing the most western and eastern films possible.Although it takes a central plot-point from its namesake, Sergio Corbucci’s Django, the film is something like a mixture of Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars.Sukiyaki is a western, nominally taking place in Yuta, where a lone gunmen wanders into the middle of a mining town being fought over by two rival gangs in search of a rumored treasure.He ends up siding with the locals and plays the two sides against each other, with ridiculous action scenes ensuing along the way.There’s also an obligatory love story and an over-the-top metaphor about the War of the Roses, but this is all just window dressing.

To combine the spaghetti western with the samurai film, including chanbara (swordplay) as well as some aspects of the historical Jidaigeki, the setting is filled with classically western cowboys who also happen to be Asian.Adding to the surreal nature of it all, everyone speaks English, though not particularly well.The entire set is a mix of the two traditions and truly beautiful to behold. The same can be said for the action sequences, which manage to mix swords and guns surprisingly well.

An easy criticism of Sukiyaki is that despite its virtuosic design, there’s little else to the film.This is pretty spot on.But clearly that wasn’t a priority for writer/director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, The City of Lost Souls), and isn’t a good barometer for gauging the film.More disappointing is that after the novelty of its construction wears off, much of the film is only a pretty good representation of its forebears rather than an exceedingly good movie; despite its pretensions, at its heart, Sukiyaki is still just a genre film.

In a way, Sukiyaki would function very well as the third feature of Grindhouse, especially with its tinted shots and penchant for very clever homage—rewriting McCabe and Mrs. Miller’s anti-western ending is truly an inspired touch.It’s a perfect execution of its genres and offers enough of a gimmick to maintain interest.Unfortunately, Sukiyaki never rises above its roots and, strangely enough, doesn’t actually offer up anything new.It fills the gap for a good, classical western or samurai movie, but fails at being the cinematic upheaval that it seems to be aiming for.

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