Sukiyaki Western Django (UK - DVD R2)
Our Marcus admits he saw Tarantino in the trailer and thought he'd give it a shot
The Genji and Heiki clans bring their centuries-long feud to a small Nevada town in search of the hidden treasure. Following years more of bloody fighting, the game is changed when a solitary gunslinger with no name comes to town looking for work. After witnessing his skills with a gun, both clans begin to fight for his allegiance, but the stranger has plans and allegiances of his own.
Upfront it’s probably right that I put my hands up in the air and admit I’m not a western guy at all. I’ve never really sat down and got up to speed with the specifics, or got all mushy over my favourite of the Eastwood cowboy movies or anything like that. It’s not that I don’t like what I have seen, it’s just not a genre I’ve ever spent a lot of time in. Maybe it’ll come later down the movie track. Anyways as Sukiyaki Western Django is obviously a movie that has both of its feet wading heavily in the westerns of old, you’ll have to forgive my ignorance in regards to the history that comes before it and take me as a guy who is a casual fan of Takashi Miike and one of those people who saw Tarantino in the trailer and was intrigued.
Sukiyaki Western Django is wacky—proper wacky in fact. To start with, it’s a Japanese movie in English. It's not dubbed—the Japanese cast speak in English (though it's not their first language so you will need to whack on the subtitles to give you any hope of understanding what's being said). The western style dialogue is delivered in weird and wonderful ways and there're enough insane moments of action to make the old school showdown at high noon seem tame by comparison. Visually it’s Miike going for bright and bold moments, modernising takes on the ole western set ups and using his wild extreme characters to butt heads in the clan war and to take out anyone that gets between them.
Miike jumps from almost spoof-esq painted background western sets, through beautifully designed exterior locations to hyper coloured high contrast stylized stuff in a blink of an eye. Every trick in the book to boost his vision seems to be used and most of it works wonders. A standout for me was the dance by Yoshino Kimura. She’s absolutely mesmerising, not only in the dance but throughout the entire movie and Miike knows it in the way he presents her in her scenes.
The opening five minutes with Tarantino are kooky as all hell (as are his other small scenes in the movie) and just as that starts making sense, we cut to the stranger arriving in town caught between the Red and the White clan before he pops off for a cup of tea to decide who he might side with. The flashbacks begin (the high contrast hyper coloured stuff I was talking about) and we begin to get some story set in place but with an almost forced sense of humour, our time with most of the characters just isn’t enough for it to feel like anything new or fresh in either the western or the eastern genres. For me Sukiyaki Western Django biggest problem is that it’s a little too wacky and despite the story being quite simple, it sometimes felt a little too incoherent to truly grab me.
At the end of the day, there’s plenty on offer to like, even if I didn’t quite warm to it as a whole. There are some incredible action set pieces with lots of guns, stand offs and of course the obligatory ending with everyone getting shot/ maimed/ stabbed, but still managing to have that one last shot - two or three times. There’s also a brilliant, yet short, final standoff that comes down to gun vs. sword in the snow which is visually stunning, but all in all this was all just moments for me and whilst it wasn’t at all forgettable, I didn’t find myself thinking about it for too long afterwards.
Other than coming with its fair share of grain, Sukiyaki Western Django generally looks good. Colours are bold and bright and the elements of the story that aren’t flashbacks look natural and stunning even in standard definition.
However when the flashbacks do happen and the colours and contrast get pumped pretty much as far as they can go, things begin to show up the limitations of DVD. Colours begin to bleed a little, the image becomes soft but as Gabe mentioned in his recent review of the US Blu-ray, this could very well have been intentional to fit the intended style.
The guns in this movie sound insane on the DTS track. The ricochets, blasts and gunshots are all completely over the top but totally in tune with the style of the movie as they fly around the surrounds or pummel the bass.
The dialogue is clear to hear, even if it’s not that easy to understand, given the strange choice for English language from Miike and the score fits nicely in the mix without ever becoming over powering.
Gabe said the US Blu-ray had, ‘rather slim extras’. Well the UK release has got that beat in the slim stakes. All we get is just shy of sixteen minutes worth of deleted scenes and a Quentin Tarantino interview (04:20), which is basically just his parts of what seems to be a larger Q&A session from a press conference with the rest of the cast and that’s it, unless you include the trailers for Sex Drive and The Escapist.
Sukiyaki Western Django seems to have struck a chord with the fans of what Miike has set out to emulate, but for me I just found it a little too cluttered to have real fun with.
It’s generally a good looking and sounding disc, with the extras not really being worth the time, so if you, like me, are intrigued by the trailer that featured some crazy gun play, the always interesting Takashi Miike and of course that ever loving grin of Quentin Tarantino's, you might want to give it a rent first as opposed to a blind buy.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 2nd February 2009
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Stereo 2.0 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 English
Extras: Deleted Scenes,
Easter Egg: No
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Kaori Momoi, Koichi Sato, Quentin Tarantino, Takaaki Ishibashi, Teruyuki Kagawa
Genre: Action and Western
Length: 94 minutes
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