A Spaghetti Western from Japan, and it seems to fit in very, very well!
Written By: Takashi Miike & Masa Nakamura
Directed By: Takashi Miike
It’s rare that I end up liking a film that gets off to as rough of a start as Sukiyaki Western Django. I loathed the first few minutes of the film, and it was all due to Quentin Tarantino. Regardless of what one thinks of him as a filmmaker, I think it’s been established that Mr. Tarantino is a horrendous actor. His performance in Sukiyaki Western Django is the epitome of the word horrendous. Mr. Tarantino’s reappearance in the middle of the film was pretty bad, but he was so awful in the opening minutes of Sukiyaki Western Django that I didn’t think Takashi Miike’s film had a chance in hell of winning me over.
Luckily Sukiyaki Western Django quickly took a turn for the better and by the end of the film I enjoyed watching Miike-san’s Spaghetti Western. It is true that this film is one hundred percent pure style, but it had a style that I appreciated. Even in the awful opening moments I was struck by the production design in the background. The film quickly left the fake set design behind, and what followed was just as intriguing, but for different reasons. The remainder of the film looked gorgeous, with exquisite colors and enticing cinematography. From a style standpoint I was never disappointed in Sukiyaki Western Django.
The story in Sukiyaki Western Django is another matter. To be frank, it was convoluted and a letdown. The gorgeous look of the film and the well done action set pieces were let down by a simple story made too convoluted for its own good. I’m not sure why Miike-san and Masa Nakamura felt the need to implement so many roadblocks and turns in the story. Either way, they are present and the make a story that should have been a simple gunman tale into a story that is reaching for Japanese cultural connections that it never manages to make beyond the basest of levels.
I was impressed by the action set pieces in Sukiyaki Western Django. They weren’t too elaborate, although I would make the distinction that the action in Sukiyaki Western Django was intricately staged. The first showdown in the middle of the street was easily the best sequence in the film. There’s a flashiness to the action, but at the same time it feels raw and real. The rest of the action in the film has a more stylized feel to it, but said action was still enjoyable and pleasant to watch nonetheless.
Sukiyaki Western Django is not a high point in the massive filmography of Taksahi Miike. It doesn’t however, register on the other end of the spectrum as a low point. The film has style to spare, and the action is very well done. Some of the acting is suspect, and the story falls apart at the seams. But, I enjoyed more of Sukiyaki Western Django than I disliked. There are far better Spaghetti Western’s and Miike-san films that one should take the time to seek out. Still, Sukiyaki Western Django is an intriguing curiosity from the mind of a very talented filmmaker.