Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sukiyaki Western Django

Takashi Miike | 2007 | 121 min | Japan

Workaholic, Takashi Miike's latest film is a Japanese Western with an English script that's acted out phonetically, mostly by actors who don't speak English, and which is subtitled in English. Considering Miike's recent output, it could have gone either way. Break out the sake because it's possibly his best film, and if not, it stands right beside "Audition," "Dead or Alive 2: Birds," and "Visitor Q".

The biggest problem in the past with Miike's work is that he hasn't taken enough time on films (or hasn't been able to). Finally with Sukiyaki Western Django, he's been given the time and MONEY to make a big ridiculous movie "properly". Many times his films feel cheap, like there wasn't enough work done on the script before going into production, or that too short a period of time is allotted for the editing of the film before Miike's off making his next film. The lack of refinement was fine (and even charming) at the start of his career, but at this point it's nice to see a little more care put into the process.

Even though a typical Western story of a stranger come to town and two rival gangs fighting over a treasure, with various subplots taken straight out of a hundred other westerns; Sukiyaki Western Django's script is the best Miike's had to date. It's great on so many levels. It wouldn't have been surprising if the film's comedy had relied solely on the Japanese actors speaking English. Miike and co-writer Masa Nakamura have written a script full of great comedy which is only accentuated by the poor pronunciation, not reliant on it. Nakamura is responsible for writing two of Miike's best films, "Dead or Alive 2: Birds," and "The Bird People of China," but also two of his worst, "Andromedia," and "Big Bang Love: Juvenile A". A lot of the humour in the script is a combination of old cliched Western dialogue, and anachronistic current day expressions. The action set pieces aren't as wild and bizarre as is expected of Miike, but they're a blast, and display a great deal of restraint and understanding that the film didn't need to shock its audience.

It's hard to say how the acting is since it's essentially a parody, but there isn't a single actor in the cast who is bad. Everyone gets their laughs, kills their enemies like badasses, and cries convincing enough tears of melodrama. Quentin Tarantino has a small role in the film, which is hilarious, and his most enjoyable acting outing yet. He's got the movie's best line to boot.

One can only hope that Miike enjoyed making Sukiyaki Western Django, and that he can continue making films with more significant budgets and schedules because it's brought out the best in him, and produced one of the most enjoyable popcorn movies of the year.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Disagree! I disagree. After 5 minutes I had GOT THE POINT that the actors were speaking English lines they didn't understand and it stopped being funny. Besides being FUCKING BEAUTIFULLY COSTUMED this movie held verrrry little else for me.

GIVE ME ZEBRAMAN OR GIVE ME DEATH.

But that's just me. I also hate Tarantino.

jeff said...

I hate to correct spelling, but you misspelled, "After 5 minutes I had MISSED THE POINT."

Also... Hating Tarantino is sooooo 7 years ago. Get over it. There haven't been any "7 Days in the Valley" lately that I can remember, so all's forgiven. Have you not seen "Death Proof"?

Buddy of The Pines said...

Boy howdy, do I agree with Jeff on the "Hating Tarantino is fucking tired" front.
I would like to add "Things to do in Denver when you're dead" and "Suicide Kings" to Jeff's case, as exhibit B and C.