Sukiyaki Western Django (2007)

Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) – Sergio Corbucci’s Django is one of the classics of the spaghetti western genre. It’s been hailed for its style and brutality and its enigmatic main character. More than thirty unofficial sequels and spin-offs and homages have been made to it. I have seen next to none of them, but I still feel safe in guaranteeing that this is the weirdest. Takashi Miike, known for such extreme films as Audition and Ichi the Killer, is at the helm so already you know you’re in for something else. Let me try to explain this: this is a Japanese film with an (almost) all-Japanese cast speaking English even though the movie is set in Japan in an homage to the Italian films set in the American Old West that were themselves paying homage to Japanese samurai films by masters like Akira Kurosawa who always claimed one of his biggest influences was John Ford, an American director most famous for doing westerns. Got all that? So it’s plenty high concept but does it bring the goods?

A mysterious man in black (Hideaki Ito) wanders into a small town that is ruled by two rival clans: the red Heike gang led by Kiyomori (Kôichi Satô) and the white Genji gang led by Yoshitsune (Yusuke Iseya). Both gangs try to recruit the nameless man in black, but he instead goes off with an older woman named Ruriko (Kaori Momoi) who explains the towns sordid past. It was a peaceful town until a gold rush started that brought prospectors, followed soon by the gangs. The sheriff (Teruyuki Tagawa) is in the pocket of the Red Gang, but only because they arrived first. Now that the White Gang is more powerful he’s looking for any excuse to jump ship and switch sides. His inner turmoil is comically portrayed by several Gollum-style arguments with himself. Ruriko also tells the tale of her son Akira (Shun Oguri), a Heike, and Shizuka (Yoshino Kimura), a Genji, who together had a son named Heihachi (Ruka Uchida) before Kiyomori killed Akira in cold blood. The nameless man in black figures out how to manipulate all these factors while all the time pursuing a secret agenda of his own. Oh, and there’s a familiar coffin from this film’s namesake…

Oh, yeah, and Quentin Tarantino is also in this as a gunslinger named Piringo. He speaks about half the lines with a weird pseudo-Japanese accent and the other half in his natural voice. It’s weird, but it’s the kind of bugfuck insanity that fuels the whole damn movie. The plot obvious derives mostly from Akira Kurosawa’s samurai classic Yojimbo (and Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western remake A Fistfull of Dollars). Obvious it has a lot of elements of Corbucci’s film too. It’s all very over-the-top and not afraid to let you peek behind the curtain (Tarantino’s scenes are quite obviously in a soundstage where the sky is painted on the walls). That’s really part of the movie’s charm. It’s a loving homage. It doesn’t look down on the movies it’s referencing but it never takes itself too seriously either. The accents can be a bit hard to understand but if it really bugs you that much you can always turn on subtitles (yay, technology!). It’s not Miike’s best film I’ve seen (that’s probably 13 Assassins) or his most extreme (probably Ichi the Killer) but of the ones I’ve seen it’s his craziest. It’s worth seeing if you like Miike’s films… or if you like spaghetti westerns… or if you just like weird movies… I do think it has value beyond being a cross-cultural oddity. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun. Check it out.

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  1. […] more recent ones was a bizarre Japanese flick by Takashi Miike called Sukiyaki Western Django (hey, I just reviewed it!) that also featured the participation (as an actor) of one Mr. Quentin Tarantino. Now it fits that […]

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