It took me 8 years to finally got my hands on this gem, and it was worth the searches and patience. For those of you who don’t know who Takashi Miike is, he is the Japanese equivalent of Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez or Oliver Stone or Guy Ritchie. You name it, the guy’s crazy.
Miike is mostly known for his yakuza-themed films such as Ichi the Killer. He also made a very quirky dramedy called The Bird People of China, which was one of the hidden treasure of the world of international films. Perhaps, younger audience might have known him from his Crows Zero series.
Anyway, Sukiyaki Western: Django holds itself together as high as other foreign-made western films such as Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci’s Spaghetti Western, or the Kimchi Western film The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, starring Lee Byung Hun. Sukiyaki Western: Django is a mix between Corbucci’s classic Django story and the historical rivalry between the clans Genji and Heike. All set in a fictional town called Nevata.
Now for me, the gut to make foreigners speaking English in a foreign made film has to start with a foundation of a very good concept. If not, it would only be seemed like a film full of people making sounds as if they were chewing pebbles whilst speaking. But Miike successfully combined good concept, storytelling, and acting. After all, whatever the language is won’t make any sense it it’s not delivered with good acting.
The main character, The Lone Gunman, played by Hideaki Ito, manages to appear aloof, yet likeable at the same time. History is all about perspective, so it’s interesting to see one of Japanese beloved historical figures, Yoshitsune Minamoto, leader of Genji clan, depicted as the main antagonist. Played by Yusuke Iseya, Yoshitsune maintains his rakish charm, but he’s also an in-and-out jerk. On the other hand, his rival, Heike leader Kiyomori Taira, is portrayed as an oaf with his own string of lucks. But the applause should go to Kaori Momoi as Grandma Ruriko a ka The Bloody Benten. Grandma got game!
The plot is simple, as any other western films. A stranger rides into town and gets caught within the local conflicts. Gunshots, many people die, and the stranger leaves town whilst muttering a really worth-quoting line. But the way Miike puts everything together is one of Asian fusion as it’s best. Denim, chaps, and katanas apparently can be worn together in harmony. Perhaps, this is the best Asian mash-up film within this decade. Kitsch at the most entertaining way, unlike some other films. Yes, I mean you, RZA.