Genres: Action & Adventure

Movie Details

Genres: Action & Adventure
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure
Studio: First Look Pictures
Format: DVD
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 1
Members Wishing: 0
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Movie Reviews

"Payback is a b!tch, and she's in heat!"
trashcanman | Hanford, CA United States | 07/27/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Takashi Miike is the very definition of a visionary filmmaker. To call him the most prolific director on the planet might be the understatement of the decade. The man churns out film after film with staggering variety, endless creativity, and a lot of style while never failing to smash every boundary of taste and genre. He's conquered the heights of truly disturbing horror, redefined disgusting, shown us horrific violence, that love is torture, and spoofed the superhero genre as well while making as many as nine films in a single year. No joke. So having crossed every line possible, what's left? Why not bring a katana to a gunfight and see what happens? "Sukiyaki Western Django" is to the western film genre what Kill Bill was to the martial-arts genre: a love letter in cinematic form from across the Pacific Ocean. And sure enough, Miike-sensei brought Quentin Tarantino along for the ride. Tighten your bootstraps, this one's a doozy.

I am not a fan of western films, but Asian cult cinema: hell yes. I would qualify this film as an absolute must-see for either/or and I imagine there is no shortage of western references and homages that flew over my head due to my inexperience with the genre. The title is an amusing Japanese play on the "spaghetti western" nickname coupled with the name of a classic example of the genre itself. Why this is relevant doesn't reveal itself until the last scene so I won't spoil it. The movie is almost schizophrenic (as is it's town sheriff) in it's mish-mash of styles. Some scenes overflow with bright colors and classic Japanese imagery, other times the shots are yellowish with muted colors like a classic western and feature those sorts of settings. One character has a holstered gun on one hip and a sheathed katana on the other. One gang dresses in bright red -including some dyed emo-style hair- and the other in pure white. All of the weapons are old-school, but there are modern bits like facial piercings as well. At one point, Tarantino hints at the origin of his character's son's name (Akira) by declaring himself "an anime otaku at heart" to which the other character responds with a baffled "what!?". Absolutely brilliant and uncalled for. Exactly the kind of oddball moment one never expects, but Miike delivers anyway. The story is a convoluted one that demands you pay attention to it, but I had to rewatch several stretches because I was utterly distracted by the bizarre nature of the film itself. For example, the opening scene features Tarantino in front of an obviously painted background. Blood even splatters onto it when he shoots a guy. There is also a short-but-sweet animated flourish during one of his stories about a female gunfighter (Bloody Benton). How can you be expected to pay attention to the dialogue when this movie is continually throwing you these kinds of visual curve-balls? Not so much a complaint as an observation.

"Sukiyaki Western Django" is an almost entirely English (Engrish?) language film. While I do very much respect Miike's artistic decision to film the movie in the native language of the stories that inspired it, it does end up detracting from the quality. It is painfully obvious at times that the actors are unaware of just what they are saying as they attempt to act while pronouncing every word phonetically. This is not true for all of the actors, but it happens often enough to be a distraction. The big showdown is explosive enough to make John Woo envious. There is some very entertaining action, a recurring bit where a gunshot produces an explosion of feathers from off camera -which may or may not be an amusing homage to Woo himself-, some sex appeal (the image of Bloody Benton licking her sizzling gun barrel is staying with me for a while), some pretty dark humor, an entrancing and sensual dance sequence, and plenty more for film fanatics to sink their teeth into here. You will not be disappointed.

Like the young boy in this story born of the union between red and white gang members and the beautiful two-toned roses his family tends to, this movie is neither here nor there. It is East-meets-West to the hilt. A perfect hybrid of offbeat Asian cinema and the traditional western. It is utterly entertaining to fans of either and it is a damn shame that it is being butchered for American consumption. That's right, the two-hour epic I own will lose about 20 minutes upon release in the USA. Why? Because the American film industry thinks we are all a bunch of ignorant hicks that will demand our money back if there is a stretch of longer than 10 minutes without something going boom. I'm thrilled that this is getting a theatrical release in The States, however limited, but this disrespect of foreign films has got to stop. Would they truncateThe Good, the Bad & the Ugly and the like? Those movies are long and slow-moving. Let's just cut out all of the "boring stuff" and re-release them so we aren't forced to sit through any brilliant pieces of cinema in their entirety. If anybody in the industry has payed their dues, it's Takashi Miike, and it's about time he gets the respect afforded to the greats. Check out "Sukiyaki Western Django" if the premise appeals to you in any way and a good time will be had by all. Now off into the sunset I ride."