It’s time to talk about Sukiyaki Western Django, an English-language western directed by Takashi Miike. Let me just stop and explain why it’s ridiculous I haven’t seen this movie before now:
- I love westerns.
- I love Japan.
- I love Quentin Tarantino.
- I love Takashi Miike.
I don’t want to get too much into the plot. The whole thing is just one big ball of over-the-top goodness. Who doesn’t love a good spaghetti western or samurai flick? How about both at the same time? I’ll show you the trailer and we can go from there.
Right off the bat during Quentin’s voiceover, you see a shot rising above the street as the Man With No Name stands between two rival gangs.
You should immediately recognize the connection between this film and Yojimbo; when you see this character in the center, you just think Toshiro Mifune and Clint Eastwood. Miike knows his film history, too; when the man tries to sell his services as a hired gun, one of the henchmen yells, “Best not get any ideas about playing ‘Yojimbo’!”
Where this film goes so unbelievably right is how it incorporates elements of spaghetti westerns and Japanese samurai films [chanbara]. Miike commits uncompromisingly to several stylistic choices — despite having a nearly all-Japanese cast, the film is in English. A time period is not set, so guns and swords mix in an Old West that blends Japan and America. For this occasion, I have decided that Sukiyaki Western Django gets its own genre: the Soba Western. Cool, right?
Japanese directors play with color [not race] a lot, and Miike made an obsession of the red and white motif. It helps that blood is red.
Have I mentioned yet that this movie is awesome? Some critics didn’t like the idea that the movie’s in English. Here’s where I have a problem. People are constantly complaining that movies with subtitles demand too much attention, but when a movie is done in English, they whine about lost authenticity. Let’s get it straight — this is not a compromise. Miike knew exactly why he wanted it in English, and while it takes a few minutes to get used to the Japanese accents, there’s no lasting issue. What’s better is that true fans of the Japanese cinema will recognize several of the actors. The Man With No Name really is a no-name actor, but so was Eastwood when A Fistful of Dollars came out. The leader of the white gang is Yusuke Iseya, who made his film debut in 1999′s After Life [shown in the second photo]. The sheriff is Teruyuki Kagawa, an immensely talented actor who gained national popularity as a lead in last year’s historical drama, “Ryomaden”. Kaori Momoi, who worked with Kurosawa and is known to American audiences from “Memoirs of a Geisha” also plays a supporting role. These aren’t lightweights, and the acting is great.
So, by now, you really know all you need to know. There’s a Man With No Name, two warring gangs, and a treasure to be had. Did I mention the treasure?
Yeah. Gold in the snow. If I have one complaint about this film it’s that you can tell where Miike wanted something and wouldn’t have it any other way. For example, there was the inevitable final showdown during some extreme weather that comes out of nowhere. To see more of this, you can check out Miike’s film Crows Episode Zero which came out the same year and does the same thing. Could have used some originality there. Otherwise, I have no problems with this movie. Don’t get too into the plot, just enjoy watching something ridiculous. Tarantino’s in it, for Christ’s sake. And besides, everyone loves a Man With No Name movie. Especially when he gets the girl (not at all a spoiler).
Anyway, I have to stop myself from going too far while talking about this movie. It might just be that this film hits so many of my tastes at the same time and is brilliantly made. But whether or not I’m biased, you should absolutely check it out. There’s certainly some violence, but this movie is downright entertaining from beginning to end. Grab Sukiyaki Western Django on Netflix.