"Sukiyaki Western Django": Japanese cowboys play by their own rules
"Sukiyaki Western Django," Japanese cult director Takashi Miike's first English-language theatrical film, is ultraviolent, clever, filled with movie references, strikingly visualized, hard to follow and a hoot until it gets tedious.
Seattle Times staff reporter
"Sukiyaki Western Django," with Hideaki Ito, Koichi Sato, Yusuke Iseya, Masanobu Ando. Directed by Takashi Miike, from a screenplay by Miike and Masaru Nakamura.
98 minutes. Rated R for strong violence, including a rape. Egyptian.
You've seen your spaghetti Westerns. Here's a ramen Western. Hope you like red sauce.
"Sukiyaki Western Django" is as insane and referential as the title sounds. Japanese cult director Takashi Miike's first English-language theatrical film is ultraviolent, clever, filled with movie references, strikingly visualized, hard to follow and a hoot until it gets tedious.
A Japanese stranger (Hideaki Ito) shows up in a town in "Nevada" with Japanese buildings where rival Japanese cowboy gangs are fighting over treasure. Flashbacks reveal another agenda. A fistful of revenge is sought.
Got that? Completing a cross-cultural film loop, "SWD" spoofs, pays homage to and generally violates spaghetti Westerns, which did the same to American Westerns, which borrowed liberally from samurai cinema.
Miike sets his wild (translation: insane) fantasy hodgepodge in the 12th century but without a thought given for accuracy in historical detail or the laws of physics. Hey, it's a movie about Japanese cowboys. He serves up portions of spaghetti classics that include, naturally, Sergio Corbucci's outstanding 1966 "Django," which spawned a mother lode of sequels (see 1967's "Django Kill ... If You Live, Shoot!"). As with its forefather, this one makes use of the iconic Gatling gun in a casket.
Getting ventilated with that is about the most conventional way anyone buys the farm in the movie — which is excessively violent even by spaghetti standards, but not Miike's. The director cranks out movies faster than Stephen King writes books and may be best known for the vastly different shockers "Audition" (1999) and "Ichi the Killer" (2001). "SWD" has a gory sense of humor closer to the over-the-top latter than the hard-to-take former. We're not talking "Unforgiven" here.
In an early scene, a man looks down to see the hole blasted through his gut, and someone fires an arrow through the hole into another dude who's peering through. High fives!
The photography and production design (by Toyomichi Kurita and Takashi Sasaki, respectively) are startlingly high-quality for such a venture, ranging from beautiful outdoor scenes to surreal ones not apparently shot in the known universe. One featured in the trailer is drenched with bright colors, with a gigantic sun and a volcano in the background. You know, one o' them Nevada volcanos. That scene also features cult-movie king Quentin Tarantino, but be warned (or gratified) that he only gets a few minutes of screen time.
As much of a hoot as the movie is, it feels like just an exercise well before it ends. In one shootout, a character who's just been shot, then shot again, stops and faces the shooter with hands on hips and an impatient expression that looks like, Really? You're not done yet? Then gets shot again.
Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.