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Sukiyaki Western Django (2007)

by on 2011/06/05

“The proud do not endure, they are like a dream on a spring night.”

* * * *

Last year around this time, I bought a brick of DVDs at a small-town department store. I think they were being sold by the kilogram or something. I hauled the great hulking bulk of DVDs out of the store simply to get my scrabbling little paws on a copy of Sukiyaki Western Django.

To put my sacrifice to obtain this film into even more stark relief, a copy of Tom Green’s direct-to-video snowboarding comedy Shred was also in this brick. Tom Green’s Shred is still in my home.

These are the trials I’m willing to endure for

Ok, so to Sukiyaki Western Django.

To understand this film, we first we need to begin at the beginning. Django (1966), directed by Sergio Corbucci, is the high holiest of holies of the Spaghetti western genre. For those misguided few who have not seen this sublime film, it involves a stranger wandering into a small town that has been divided and terrorized by the KKK and Mexican bandits. The stranger drags a coffin behind him.

Sukiyaki Western Django takes this concept, sets it in Japan (or perhaps more accurately, the Japan of another astral dimension) spatters it with red, then white paint, mixes in some shiitake mushrooms and a few magic ones in for good measure, adds a dash of Quentin Tarantino, and then flicks on the blender.

The soup stock of Sukiyaki is boiled from the bones of Yojimbo and Fistful of Dollars. An unnamed gunfighter (Hideaki Ito) enters a town called Yuta in “Nevata,” plays two rival sides off of one another on the hunt for golden treasure. The man with no name winds up getting beaten to a bloody pulp, and manages to reduce the entire place to smoldering, splattered rubble. There’s even an iron breast plate in the mix.

But wait there’s more.  There’s the references to Shakespeare, and the 1455-1485 War of the Roses in England.  The leader of the “Reds”  Taira no Kiyomori (Koichi Sato), declares his new name “Henry” after the conquering king Henry V.

Lest you think that Romeo and Juliet was a bit of a downer, there’s the two star-crossed lovers at the centre of the drama – Akira and Shizuka. Each a member of the warring Heike and Genji clans respectively, Akira (Shun Oguri) is gunned down in the streets in front of his wife Shizuka (Yoshino Kimura) and young son. Shizuka runs to the leader of Genjis, Minamoto no Yoshitsune (Yûsuke Iseya) to get revenge, abandoning her little boy to be raised by his liquor-guzzling grandmother Ruriko (Kaori Momoi).

The result of all of these entertaining, troubling and at times, incongruous elements is a breath-stopping, insane, non-stop riot of a film, directed by Takashi Miike.

And just when you think you understand what’s happening, Miike throws another flaming curve ball at you. Ruriko is no ordinary grandmother but famed gunslinger Bloody Benten, trained by another legendary killer Ringo, played by Quentin Tarantino.

(As an aside, I’m pretty sure I want to be Kaori Momoi when I grow up. Coolest. Woman. Ever).

Oh, yes and Ruriko’s son with Tarantino’s character Ringo is named for the movie Akira. A geriatric Ringo, wheeling around is a motorized wheelchair in um, feudal Japan, admits that he’s just “anime otaku at heart.”


I did warn you it was crazed.

Good thing I like crazed.

Sukiyaki Western Django is a beautiful, brainy, brilliant sort of crazy – a veritable insane feast for my film-scorched eyeballs.

* * * *

121 minutes

Rated R for bloody violence by the rain barrel-full and a man being snapped in half …although he lives for some reason

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