The spaghetti western has gone East like never before. The gunslingers pack a six-shooter next to their samurai swords and dress like glam-rockers gone back to reclaim the duster.
The movie is Sukiyaki Western Django and it is a Japanese western from cult-cinema bad-boy Takashi Miike. The cast is Japanese but the dialogue is English and the actors deliver the lines phonetically. Nonetheless, their articulation of lines like “Are you gonna come at me or whistle Dixie?” are reminiscent of the popular genre of post-dubbed Asian fight films. And in case you still do not get it, English subtitles run across the bottom of the screen. Miike’s ever-expanding Western fan base will appreciate the language change, as it allows audiences to focus on Miike’s style rather than suffer the distraction of reading.
The Genji Whites and the Heike Reds have been enemies for centuries, so the fact they have chosen to occupy the same town in hopes of finding a hidden treasure does not bode well for the townspeople. But through the efforts of a mysterious stranger, a hard-drinking matriarch, an injury-resistant sheriff and a widow turned whore, the town may once again breathe without fear.
Miike skilfully creates moments of hilarity with the noticeable use of painted backgrounds, exaggerated injuries and the recital of Shakespeare in between strategy planning. “Call me ‘Hen-Ray,’” demands the Red leader of his gang. Furthermore, the ineptitude of both gangs is underscored by the accuracy and ability of the stranger and the Bloody Benten, “nicknamed double B for short.”
It is widely known that director Quentin Tarantino is a fan of spaghetti westerns and samurai films, so it is no surprise when his rugged face, shaded by a cowboy hat, fills the screen in a small role as a gunslinger. And true to the film’s style, he too pronounces his words slowly and deliberately as he recalls the tale of the battle of Dannoura and professes to be an “anime otaku.”
Miike creates a mishmash of Sergio Leone westerns and Sergio Corbucci surreal, bloody gunfights encompassed by an Americana-kabuki-baroque style. The result is non-stop entertainment.