Review: Sukiyaki Western Django
PLOT: When a lone gunman comes to the small town of Yuda, he comes looking for trouble. Two rival gangs have taken up shop to look for rumored gold that may be in them thar hills. It is up to a kick ass grandma, and a gunman with a killer aim to help claim the gold for a little boy and his mother. They had the unfortunate experience of witnessing his father and her husband get shot down in cold blood. But the good guys have a whole bunch of pissed off reds and whites with thoughts of greed, murder and mayhem on their minds.
SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO is a western smothered in Samarai with a strong influence of Shakespeare thrown in. And Takashi Miike literally throws everything into the pot, with the help of Quentin Tarantino. In the opening sequence shot against a colorful yet obvious backdrop, we are given an introduction to the story by none other than Mr. Tarantino. He plays a rugged cowboy that can kill a snake and cut out the chicken egg that the slithery beast was trying to steal. Although Quentin’s acting skills are questionable, it is a good start to what becomes a cinematic kaleidoscope of color and atmosphere. Miike drenches each sequence in style, from the dusty landscapes, to a darkened saloon, it all looks as beautiful as it could possibly look. Even in the opening moments when it is clearly “a stage setting”, it is shot in such a marvelous way. I would have been interested to see what the whole movie would have looked like if they had continued with that. But when we break out of the backdrop and see the open and treacherous sky, it really is a wonder.
My rating 5/10 -- JimmyO
So with all that beauty, this could have been a brilliant experience. But sadly, everything that was supposed to enliven the picture perfect images just seemed to drag them down with lame dialogue and clichéd action. What we have here is a terribly fascinating idea. Taking all these very different genres and putting them together. Yet this is truly a case of style over substance. I really appreciated the western setting while using the Japanese influence. I also appreciated the clever use of Shakespeare and “Henry the VIII” by a crazed leader of one of the rival gangs that have taken over the town of Yuda. One team wore white and the other wore red, which only adds to the visual element of it all. But sadly, the Japanese actors are only so-so to just plain bad when acting with an English accent. A couple of them were fascinating to watch, but The Gunman (Hideaki Ito) is so lifeless and dull that he can’t help but bring the movie down a notch or two.
When The Gunman arrives to help whoever will pay, he finds himself falling in love with one of the locals. A beautiful woman whose husband was murdered by the hoodlums. Yoshino Kimura is quite good as the one woman who is at the hearts of all the men with guns. I also enjoyed the quiet power of her mother played by Kaori Momoi. In fact, I found both of these ladies to be the most interesting characters of the lot. Take out the broodingly boring Gunman and just have these two ladies with the young boy who was traumatized by his fathers murder, and pit these three against the town full of gunslingers and it might have been a fun little hoedown. But the story is much less important than how the images look, and the film suffers from that. You can stare at a pretty picture for only so long, but after awhile you’d like to see something more substantial.
Miike had a chance to pay tribute to the 1966 film DJANGO among others, and he knows how to make a blooming bed of roses with all sorts of shades popping out at you. But sadly, the script was so pedestrian, that nothing seemed to be all that important. I didn’t care about many of the characters. Even if they were tweaked a little from the typical cliché, the were still a cliché. And the humor here works on some levels, but the Gollum/Smeagol Sheriff gets a bit tedious as do some of the other attempts at comedy as they try and aim for the funny bone. But if you are a fan of Miike’s style, and not necessarily in the mood to watch AUDITION again, you will probably have fun with this.
My rating 5/10 -- JimmyO