It’s tough to know how to summarise Sukiyaki Western Django. It is, without question, one of the most singularly insane films going; it makes basically no sense and is wildly incoherent at the best of times, but it’s so stylish and so entertaining in such a weird way that you can’t help but really like it.
Director Takashi Miike, he of the preposterously violent but also pretty brilliant 13 Assassins, has here decided to make a very Tarantino-esque noodle Western, it being an amalgamation of the Western and samurai film genres. Which makes sense, really: the two are basically the Japanese and American takes on what is essentially one genre. It draws a lot on classic spaghetti Westerns, predictably, with A Fistful of Dollars being a particular influence. I shan’t try to summarise the plot, other than to state the fact that it stars the Man With No Name stock character, here played by Hideaki Ito “ and to be honest, you can probably figure out where the story is going from his presence and the fact that the title has the word Django in it. Instead, I shall list some of the features which make it such compellingly bananas viewing and allow you to make up your own mind.
The opening scene is obviously filmed in front of a matte painting.
The events of the film, according to the road signs, take place in Nevada.
However, said road sign is in Japanese kanji.
Everyone is dressed as a gunslinger/ samurai hybrid and carries katanas as well as revolvers.
Katanas are quite capable of deflecting bullets, even at very close range.
Despite being set in Nevada, in the middle of a desert, the architecture is clearly Japanese.
Everyone speaks Japanese-accented English, but the dialogue is subtitled anyway.
There is a cameo from Quentin Tarantino, who for some reason uses a motorised wheelchair.
No doubt there are a lot of people for whom this film will simply be too weird to take in, and it’s hard to blame them. It doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense, but if you enjoy the genres it pastiches and don’t mind style over substance “ and if the idea of a noodle Western appeals at all to you “ I thoroughly recommend giving it a look. While it is undoubtedly style over substance, it is every bit as stylish as you would expect from Takashi Miike, with some fantastic use of colour in the two gangs fighting over the town, one red, one blue. Similarly, a lot of the film takes place through a yellow colour filter, emphasising the aridity of the setting, but also contributing a great deal to the stylised, cartoony feel of the whole thing. And on that note, it ends with a terrific gun versus sword showdown between the Man With No Name and one of the gang leaders, which is so silly but also so damned cool that it actually serves to sum up the feel of the whole film quite nicely.
So, not for everyone, and definitely not for those who want their films to make sense. Still, for those who enjoy the genres being merged here, it’s clear that a lot of affection for them went into Sukiyaki Western Django, and if you enjoy spaghetti Westerns or Tarantino (who has a cameo) films in particular, there’s likely something here for you. It’s not a film I can say everyone should rush out and see, because I imagine a lot of people would hate it, but I for one enjoyed it immensely.