Starring: Hideaki ITO, Yusuke ISEYA, Kaori MOMOI, Koichi SATO, Yoshino KIMURA, Teruyuki KAGAWA, Masanobu ANDO, Takaaki ISHIBASHI, Shun OGURI, Quentin Tarantino
Already known for his absurdist take on most film genres, Takashi Miike shatters all expectations once again with SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO, his interpretation of the Spaghetti Western. With feuding clans, a nameless stranger, a hidden treasure and a legendary gunfighter, all your typical western contrivances are in place. Toss in sword play, phonetically spoken English by the entire Japanese cast, vast amounts of blood and guts plus Quentin Tarantino. Now you have a Takashi Miike western.
The film opens on what is obviously a sound stage, complete with two-dimensional backdrop of a mountain and sun. The ensuing carnage is even splattered onto the backdrop, adding to the preposterous scene. Throwing Quentin Tarantino in to the whole mess completely prepares the audience for where Miike plans to take them, into his unbelievably wacky world of the old west. After the brief opening sets the mood, we flash forward to a Nameless Stranger entering “Nevada”, which is written on an old sign… in Japanese characters. And so it begins!
The Stranger wanders into a town currently involved in a bitter feud between the Heiki clan and the Genji clan. It is Red versus White and the clans have been battling for centuries, now settling in the decrepit town in search of the its rumoured treasure. In good old YOJIMBO style, the Stranger sees an opportunity to play both sides. They recognize the reference and tell him to not even try. Some fast gunplay impresses both sides and they each realize his abilities might just give them the advantage they need. An Old Biddy interrupts the whole mess and pulls the Stranger into her bar. She tells about how the Heiki clan first arrived and took control of the whole town, killing off any who opposed them. When the Genji clan arrived, the townsfolk thought they were saved. The Genjis ended up being just as bad as the Heikis, and now most people have fled and the feud has been sitting at a stalemate. Deciding the Heikis to be the worse of the two, the Stranger offers himself to the Genji clan and still somehow manages to double cross them in an attempt to have the two clans slaughter each other off.
The film riffs on almost every western you can think off, finally even living up to its title when one of the Genji clan leaves and returns with a weapon to defeat the Heikes, dragging it along in a coffin. And of course, the final scene (which I won’t ruin for any of you), theme song and all, is priceless.
Having the cast speak phonetically in English adds to the satirical nature of the whole film but it also makes many moments drag out. When the Heike leader reads Shakespeare’s Henry VI and adopt the whole story as he creed, since in it the Reds win, it is hilarious but so long winded. Which is exactly what I think of Shakespeare sometimes so kudos to Miike for that.
SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO may not appeal to those who love Miike for how extreme he gets, even though it has its fair share of that crimson gold. The English, which is also subtitled (thankfully for some) is something you really need to get to used to. Because if you can’t you will fucking hate this movie. It is a pretty wild excursion for most who usually enjoy walking down the path with Miike, but be prepared, it’s a long and winding road and most likely you’ll be the one dragging the coffin the whole way.