Takashi Miike’s Easternized Spaghetti Western

Director Takashi Miike is one of the most celebrated auteurs in Japanese cinema and the genre-shattering filmmaker tackles the spaghetti western with the rollicking Sukiyaki Western Django. Featuring a Japanese cast speaking in phonetic English and Quentin Tarantino hamming it up as Piringo, it’s a wild tribute to classic spaghetti westerns from the East.

Blessed with Miike’s fluid filmmaking and an over-the-top enthusiasm for the genre, Sukiyaki Western Django is the action of Peckinpah and Tarantino-like dialogue mashed together for an electrifying western tale set in Japan.

The epic tale of swords and gunplay is set in an isolated mountain town with two opposing groups, the Red and the White clans. Besides Tarantino, the Japanese headliners include Hideaki Ito, Kôichi Satô, Yûsuke Iseya, Masanobu Ando, and Takaaki Ishibashi.

Sukiyaki Western Django is a whole lot of fun with wild western action…

Probing the boundaries between homage and parody, Miike twists the spaghetti western template into a sprawling conflict between the two clans as a mysterious gunman shows up in town. Both sides attempt to pull in the highly skilled gunslinger to their cause, hopefully tipping the balance of power.

A hidden treasure lies at the heart of the conflict between the white-clothed Genji and the red-outfitted Kiyomori warriors. The newly-arrived gunslinger promises to side with whomever offers him the most cash, but he’s hiding an ulterior motive. The messy situation leads to a crazy showdown with explosive action.

For the super-stylish Miike, Sukiyaki Western Django represents a wild fusion of Eastern sensibilities grafted onto the raw elements of a spaghetti western. When it climaxes with a stunning gun-versus-sword duel, you can’t help but think there was no other ending possible.

I’d love to think the movie is for everyone, but its quirkier facets will prevent some viewers from appreciating its sheer passion and enthusiasm for spaghetti westerns. Tarantino is a great director but his role here in front of the cameras is hackneyed and trite. Hamming it up while lapsing in and out of an affected accent, the filmmaker delivers a campy impersonation of Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name from the Dollars Trilogy. While his name likely got this film funded by producers, his inclusion as an actor is a mistake.

Sukiyaki Western Django is a whole lot of fun with wild western action, cooked up as only the brilliant Takashi Miike could have imagined. The movie is a little rough around the edges because the Japanese cast is mostly working in a language they don’t understand. That in no way stops its raw entertainment value.

Video

MVD offers up both the original international version and the longer extended cut from Japan on a single BD-50. Presented in their proper aspect ratios at 2.35:1, this is the first time that longer cut has hit HD video in North America. The wait was worth it. Improving over the old First Look BD’s ancient VC-1 encode, a stout AVC encode transparently captures the nuance and fine detail without problems.

Cleanly shot with a vivid palette and razor-sharp definition, Sukiyaki Western Django looks great on Blu-ray. There are a few erratic scenes befitting Miike’s fast-paced shooting style but generally overall picture quality makes for pleasing high definition video.

Excellent dimensionality and palpable depth frame the dusty western setting. A couple issues crop up in terms of shadow delineation and color saturation. There’s little visible difference between the two cuts, both look nigh identical with fundamentally the same virtues.

Audio

The primary cut made for international audiences includes 5.1 DTS-HD MA and 2.0 PCM audio choices. Filmed in English spoken by a cast with only rudimentary command of the language, the sound design offers an active soundstage with fairly limited low-end. Sukiyaki Western Django’s audio is great when it comes to the classic spaghetti western-influenced score and music. Clean dynamics and well-balanced volume levels are part of the wider surround mix.

The longer extended cut comes with a more limited 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. There is less oomph and a flatter soundstage.

Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles are provided for the shorter international version. Only Japanese subtitles are offered for the longer extended cut. All subs appear in a yellow font.

Extras

MVD releases Sukiyaki Western Django as part of its Marquee Collection with a slipcover available and reversible artwork for the cover. The big news here is that both the longer cut from Japan and shorter international version are included in HD quality. MVD also carries over the excellent making-of documentary from the original First Look BD put out back in 2007. The Blu-ray is coded for all regions.

Japanese speakers looking for more in-depth special features should check out Geneon’s 3-disc DVD set. It’s not an English-friendly set but offers an audio commentary by Miike in Japanese.

Sukiyaki Western Django: Extended Cut (120:19 in HD; 5.1 Dolby Digital w/ Optional Japanese subtitles) – This is the feature why many owners of the OOP First Look BD will double-dip for this disc. The much longer Japanese cut of the film arrives in HD quality in North America for the first time. Previously the only way to get this version was importing the Japanese BD. The one issue here is the lack of English subtitles. Some of the English is delivered in broken pronunciation and makes comprehension occasionally difficult. Miike himself was the person that cut the film down when releasing it for international Western audiences. This longer version feels bloated and overloaded by comparison.

Deleted Scenes (06:37 in SD)

Making of Featurette (52:40 in SD; Japanese with English Subtitles) – A neat look behind-the-scenes from the set with many glimpses of the crew filming. Several different cast members are interviewed and Miike shares an insider’s view covering the project.

Sizzle Reel (03:12 in SD)

Promotional Clips (02:58 in SD)

US and Japanese Trailers and TV Spots (04:51 in SD)

MVD TrailersDahmer, Eye See You, Shade

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Sukiyaki Western Django: C.E.
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Takashi Miike’s stylish crack at the spaghetti western successfully mashes Quentin Tarantino-style dialogue with over-the-top action set pieces and clear Japanese influences.

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5 (1 vote)

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