Well, that was interesting. If you’ve seen any of Takashi Miike`s other films such as Audition, Ichi the Killer or The Happiness of the Katakuris, then you probably know that he makes things one could only describe as being weird and bizarre. But aren`t those the fundamentals of imagination? Although something of a confusing and befuddling mess, Miike’s foray into the Western genre, Sukiyaki Western Django is another showcase for his playful and often gory style.
From what I could gather from the plot, there’s a mysterious drifter with a good shot, two warring clans (the Reds and the Whites), a once peaceful village and a pile of treasure waiting for those who make it to the end. It borrows heavily from old Westerns, particularly those of the Spaghetti variety. At times it seems epic in scope, while at other times it felt like a mess.
The characters play out like cartoons rather than people. They speak in loaded lines, groan and grunt and make outlandish acts both in battle and when they’re just kicking back. There’s little in the way of character development outside of the basic motivations of greed and revenge. Even those don’t go far beyond the surface as they’re gleaned from basic genre conventions.
Miike’s style is far from realism. Instead he focuses on what he thinks looks interesting and carries a certain level of sadistic fun. It’s easy to shoot, kill or maim someone in a film. It’s done all the time. What Miike does is makes it original, even if it is outlandish. For example, in Sukiyaki Western Django a foot soldier has a hole blown right threw him – literally. Miike doesn’t stop there, getting maximum mileage from the gag through a couple of other spots. It’s scenes like these that showcase Miike’s style the best. They’re so over-the-top you can’t help but snicker and forgive some of the glaring holes in the storytelling that if dwelled upon can become frustrating.
Sukiyaki Western Django is a film best seen and not thought about too much. It’s an exercise in spinning a genre. It’s also an obvious bit of self indulgence as well. The result is something that has a very confident look and feel but also something that isn’t for everyone. It took me a couple of viewings to get a handle for it and even then my mind would wander at times. The cast is so large that the focus is often in two or three different places at a time. This would be fine if each of the characters were more easily differentiated than by their choice of clothes. Most are generic archetypes that are looking for money. The big difference comes from whether or not their clothes have a red palette or a white one. To make matters a little more confusing there’s those who stand on neither side. So what ends up happening is a whole lot of cartoonish action without any real reason for it.
Stylized? Absolutely. Original? In a recycled, post-modern sort of way. Enjoyable? To a certain extent. But only when you tune out. Sukiyaki Western Django ultimately limits itself by opting for style over substance. I think the look and play was the intent of Miike, so good on him for his confident imagination. I would have just preferred something that went a lot deeper than playing with a genre’s conventions.
Sukiyaki Western Django DVD Review
Sukiyaki Western Django hits DVD with a strong release, particularly for one with just a single disc. The film is shown in an immaculate widescreen picture with a Dolby Digital 5.1 English soundtrack. There’s also a stereo track. Subtitles are offered in English and Spanish.
The bonus features are led by a 52-minute making-of featurette. There’s also four deleted scenes, a promo reel, trailer and a handful of clips.
Sukiyaki Western Django Gallery