SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO (director/writer: Takashi Miike; screenwriter: Masa Nakamura; cinematographer: Toyomichi Kurita; editor: Taiji Shimamura; music: Koji Endo; cast: Quentin Tarantino (Ringo), Hideaki Ito (Gunman), Masanobu Ando (Yoichi), Koichi Sato (Kiyomori), Kaori Momoi (Ruriko), Yoshino Kimura (Shizuka), Yusuke Iseya (Yoshitsune), Takaaki Ishibashi (Benkei), Teruyuki Kagawa (the Sheriff); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Hirotsugu Yoshida/Toshinori Yamaguchi; First Look Studios; 2007-Japan-in English)
“The gimmicky gore fest quickly fell out of favor with me.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Takashi Miike(“Crows Zero“/”Ichi The Killer”/”Audition”) directs this cartoonish spaghetti western, modeled after Sergio Corbucci’s gory 1966 “Django” and lifting much from Sergio Leone’s equally gory 1964 “A Fistful of Dollars”–a remake of Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo.”
The plot centers around a mysterious nameless gunfighter (Hideaki Ito), a newly arrived stranger in town obviously channeling A Fistful of Dollars’ star Clint Eastwood, arriving in the mountain small town in the midst of a gang war and hanging out at the local seedy saloon named Eastwood. The red Heiki clan, led by the volatile Kiyomori (Koichi Sato), is at war against the white clan, led by the Genji, Yoshitsune (Yusuke Iseya). They are fighting over hidden gold in the mountains, with both clans trying to recruit the elusive gunfighter they recognize as a great gunfighter.
The colorful clan warriors would look more at home in a campy musical than a western, but this is a Miike pic and he has his stylized ways of operating. Though the cast is mostly Japanese, they speak in a pidgin English. This makes it seem all the more like a B film that is trying hard to lay a big joke on the viewer, but the in-jokes are not as clever as the filmmaker thinks they are. Miike lets us know from the opening scene he’s gunning for tongue-in-cheek geek comedy, as it has a cowboy-hatted Quentin Tarantino introduce the story by talking in a heavily accented rote English as if he were both a samurai and a cowboy; and, for good measure, the tough host coolly disembowels a snake before feasting on its insides.
The gimmicky gore fest quickly fell out of favor with me, as I lost interest early on in the uninspiring characters and storyline; and once the novelty wore off, the pic never got my full attention back.
Co-writers MiikeandMasa Nakamura tell of the legendary battle of Dannoura in 1185 (relating it to the War Of The Roses), and how several hundred years later that battle continues at present in this small town. Miike pushes in the viewer’s face his lurid pastiche of the spaghetti westerns that were themselves lurid interpretations to Hollywood’s classic westerns, as he tries to make it an eastern western. Not much here but uniquely stunning colorful photography, awkward dialogue that’s funny at times and eye-catching cartoonish violence treated as slapstick comedy. Even if well-crafted, the film itself merely shoots off blanks and stands to be appreciated mostly by those who have an acquired taste for Miike’s excesses and off-kilter sense of humor.
REVIEWED ON 2/17/2011 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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