Sukiyaki Western Django – Borderland Film Review

Hideaki Ito as ‘A Wandering Gunman’ in Takashi Miike’s SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO

Takashi Miike goes all KILL BILL memory-dump on the spaghetti western with SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO. It’s like when THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN paid homage to Kurosawa paying homage to the western in THE SEVEN SAMURAI, but way crazier.
Who is that mysterious, gaijin man? Quentin Tarantino as ‘Ringo.’The set-up is stock: Mysterious stranger (Hideaki Ito) rides into a town riven by two warring families, and all hell breaks loose. Then it gets nuts: The town boasts both a general store and torii gates; cowboys sling katana and six-shooters; and the actors, all Japanese (except for — big surprise — Quentin Tarantino), speak their lines in English, with varying degrees of coherence. There’s even a quick dip into anime, but without the piquancy of KILL BILL’s O-Ren Ishii sequence.
Which is something of a shortcoming throughout. Miike here doesn’t exhibit Tarantino’s unique ability to ground crazy-ass action in an emotional base. Halfway through SUKIYAKI, you begin to realize that there’s no there there, that it’s just stuff being thrown at you. At that point, the film loses some its edge — still fun, yeah, but to what end?
Circle the wagons — the samurai are attacking! Takaaki Ishibashi as ‘Benkei.’And the weird thing is, I don’t want that to count as too much of a knock against the film. It’s so clear that Miike is grooving on the genre that one would have to be Dick Cheney not to want to join him on the ride (even Tarantino’s scenery-chewing feels right at home). SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO may be little more than a candy-coated, candy-colored reinterpretation of Italian-bred, nihilistic gore-mongering, but, hey, that’s Junior Mints they’re offering at the concession stand, not broccoli. So long as it doesn’t become the sole component of my cinematic diet, I can enjoy it for the treat it is.
SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO (First Look Studios, 2007; 98 mins.) Directed by Takashi Miike. Cast: Hideaki Ito, Kaori Momoi, Koichi Sato, Yoshino Kimura, Yusuke Iseya.

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