Sukiyaki Western Django movie poster
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Sukiyaki Western Django movie poster

Sukiyaki Western Django Movie Review

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One of the strangest films of 2008, Sukiyaki Western Django is a Japanese-made and -acted western where the actors speak English, the characters fire guns and the bad guy wields a samurai sword. It is west meets east in gory, broken English fashion, and it's quite entertaining.

To be fair, some people will hate this movie. It is a tad unclear how satirical director Takashi Miike intended the picture to be, as it is a mix of various references, terrible dialogue and some pretty violent fight sequences. My roommate liked the movie, but thought that a lot of the funny parts were unintentionally so. I see it a different way: the entire movie is a spoof, where characters need hundreds of bullets to die, the dialogue, spoken in broken English by Japanese actors, is cheesy and cliché and characters with split personalities run around like crazy loons. The very presence of Quentin Tarantino, who delivers a terrible performance that includes a forced western drawl, is an indication that the movie is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Of course, that still doesn't mean everyone will like it.

So what is it about? I'd say, does it really matter? But if you insist, Sukiyaki Western Django is about a stranger who wanders across two warring clans and offers his services to the highest bidder. At the same time, a few "innocent" victims are stuck in the middle, and they could spell the end to both of the clans. Treasure hunting, rape, revenge and more ensue. That's about all I got out of the plot. I was working at the time and not completely paying attention when they set up who was who, but when I started paying attention, there were a whole lot of people who, admittedly, looked quite similar killing each other for the rest of the picture.

The movie is entertaining on many levels, primarily for the reasons already mentioned. I got a kick out of hearing cliché dialogue spoken by Japanese actors; while some can speak English quite well, others can barely pronounce the words. This is quite funny. While I am no western expert, you can tell that the movie is full of subtle or not-so-subtle references to other films; I picked up on a few. Beyond that, there are a lot of great action scenes, so even if you don't find the film funny, you will find it violently bloody. Swords go through heads, machine guns plow down enemies and bullets fly free. Good stuff.

The movie does have its flaws, though the importance of such primarily depend on how open you are to ludicrous moments. Nevertheless, Miike goes overboard in the beginning; it almost seems like he set out to make an absolutely cheesy picture with fake scenery (blood splatters on the sunset at one point) and so on and so forth, but then changed his mind and allowed things to settle down. Casting Tarantino was also a mistake, other than from a marketing perspective. He's pretty bad, isn't funny and stands out in complete contrast from the rest of the cast.

Sukiyaki Western Django is not for everyone, but for those who like westerns and samurai movies and western samurai movies, it's an enjoyable, action-packed picture.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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