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
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.