Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sukiyaki Western Django - 4.5/5

The idea that cult film director Takashi Miike would take on two cult genres, spaghetti westerns and the samurai films in this case, and combine them is something of an underground film critics wet dream. This is because only Miike would be able to navigate those torrential waters and make the film not only WORK, but make it GOOD. Thusly we have the intensely charismatic and stylish "Sukiyaki Western Django", which combines our two loved genres here at Blood Brothers into a modern cinematic masterpiece of revenge, gun fights, lost love, and of course dusters with cigarettes.

Our unnamed wanderer has found a place that he might be able to pass a little time at. Sometime long long ago in Nevada, our gunman stumbled into a town with a legend of some serious gold there. In classic fashion, there are two clans in this town playing territory games to find this lost gold. The White clan lead by a sword wielding samurai warrior with skills up the ass and the Red clan lead by a dimwitted almost indestructible man who calls himself Henry are at a stand still. This lone gunman looks to play the thin odds as he helps out a distressed prostitute in the town seek her own revenge against both sides. The clans will clash and our gunman will be at the center.

This film, as one could probably tell initially, is an oddly woven combination of homages to its genres that never seems to lose sight of its own identity throughout. It wears its influences of "Yojimbo" and "Django" squarely on its sleeve but never fails to become a slave to either, combining elements of both and a slick look and style of its own modern take into a tapestry of fun over the top storytelling.

From its painted backdrops in the opening sequence to its odd visual style of action that loves to play with long silences and intense moments of gun play and colorful set designs, Miike's take on the genres is one that fits right up his alley. The over the top style visually with its balance of long tension filled shots and quick fitted action sequences and the occasional odd special effect (like how the White clan leader can split a bullet with his sword in mid shot) is something that is going to split its audience. One either gets Miike's odd humor and ballsy artistic choices or doesn't. If you don't then you will find yourself feeling the outsider the entire film. If you do, then revel in his use of colors and odd time jumps and structuring. Cause its the highlight of this film.

I also have to mention that I find the acting in this film lovably over the top and charming. Its something that many critics have debated and bawked over, with our Japanese cast that stumbles through their English dialogue and characters that defy reality (our Sheriff in the film does die many many times) and seem to be almost scarily done in stereotypes from the genres represented. For me, it only enhances the oddity of this film experience to new levels that make it seem even more like 'an old wives tale' about the west and the east. Its a fun ride with each of the characters through a different world than our own where motives are simple and time affects little.

"Sukiyaki Western Django" is a balls out thrill ride of visual intensity that should have cult film fans clamoring for more. Its a perfect homage to its genres and forefathers all the while retaining its own modern vision of what could be of the genres on hand. Miike has struck gold with this lone gunman tale. If you are a fan of either genre (or in our case, both) then this is a must see and must have. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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