April 29, 2011 Leave a comment
I am in the mood for a little western today. Western films to me always seemed like the American answer to a lot of Samurai films. Both genres usually deal with a lone gunman as opposed to a lone swordsman. You usually have an oppressive sheriff or rival gang plaguing a small western town. In samurai movies you get oppressive lords or rogue ronin warriors terrorizing a small village. A lot of the parallels in these genre movies is more of a product of each culture that it was developed. So as with every genre of film out there, the chance of genres being mashed together is always an exciting prospect. Sukiyaki Western Django is a melding of both the Samurai and Western genres, with a big mix of over the top gun play and classic spaghetti western tropes.
Now Sukiyaki isn’t the first movie to do this Asian take on the Western genre. South Korea produced a kick-ass version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly with their own The Good, The Bad, and The Weird. I also covered the Thai throwback movie Tears of the Black Tiger, which was a mixture of spaghetti western and classical Thai action movies of the 60′s. What I love about these Asian takes on the spaghetti western genre is that they have absolutely nothing to lose in terms of what they can do with the genre. They can throw ridiculous shootout scenes, over the top villains and unique backgrounds to make their take on the genre their own.
The story of Sukiyaki is pretty straightforward in terms of the western genre. The backdrop of the movie is centered around an actual historical feud between two warring clans in Japan, the Genji and Heikie clans. So movie the movie forward to include it in the Western setting, you have two clans fighting over a particular province. A nameless gunman waltz into town and decides to help a local prostitute to get revenge on the warring gangs for the crimes they have committed. Naturally this gunman helps out, he intervenes in the gangs war and finally gets swept up in the huge battle.
Pretty cut and dry in terms of story line, but what the movies lacks in intricate story telling, the movie makes up for in crazy action scenes. If there is one thing that director, cult film icon Takashi Miike, can do and that is over the top violence and action.
Sukiyaki is an incredible spectacle of action set piece after action set piece. Miike takes the spaghetti western genre and just amps it up with ridiculous guns, samurai sword combat and just general mayhem. The battles that takes place between both faction just progresses to a point where it become a video game and you just wanna pick up a controller and join the fray. Overall it is the action that is the big focal point of the movie. The setting and background set pieces are wonderful to look at and have a very simplistic, but effective western look to it.
My biggest complaint of the movie though is the acting. Miike made the weird choice to have all their native Japanese actors and actresses speak in English, not Japanese. What you get in the movie is just choppy and garbled line delivery from most of the actors. They are not native English speakers, so when the movie is an homage to spaghetti westerns and it includes certain western phrases, it is not effective in the least. Why Miike decided to go this route with shooting the movie is lost on me. They do provide subtitles throughout the movie, so not sure why they didn’t just have the actors speak Japanese.
If you can get past the fact that the movie is spoken in English, when clearly it shouldn’t be, this is an incredibly enjoyable movie. If you love westerns and action flicks, this film delivers it and more. I love the mix of gun play and sword play when it comes to the final action scenes. I think Miike does a great job in making a fun and funky western movie and always adds his little touch of flair to the movie. Put it in your Netflix list and sit back and enjoy some crazy western movie.