Review of Sukiyaki Western Django (2007), directed by Takashi Miike
“An epic tale of blood, lust, and greed”
Starring… Hideyaki Ito, Yusuke Iseya, Kaori Momoi, and Quentin Tarantino
Two clans are warring and both in pursuit of a hidden treasure. A gunman comes to town with both clans wanting to hire him, but he decides to defend “the temptress” Shizuka and her family. Gunslinging action ensues, with graphic blood and action sequences.
Sukiyaki Western Django is like an adult graphic novel or Manga Zine come to the big screen as a live action movie instead of an anime cartoon. This genre is even acknowledged directly when the character played by Quentin Tarantino says he is just an “otaku” at heart, which means fan in Japanese and is how anime/manga fans refer to themselves.
The movie takes place on an elaborate set, which doesn’t bother to disguise it’s a set. At times the backdrops are iconic Japanese ink block paintings. Color plays an important role throughout, both in the cinematography and the story line. The movie doesn’t bother to explain how an entire western town in the US came to be inhabited by the Japanese (the only non-Asian actor is Quentin Tarrentino). But, if you suspend your disbelief, the story seems ti be just an Asian-Western Romeo and Juliet tale with the “reds” and the “whites” replacing the Montagues and Capulets. Only this Romeo and Juliet had a son, who embodies the best both sides have to offer (he even has a braid of red and white string in his hair). The son parallels the hybrid red and white rose his parents bred, that even blooms in winter. In this story, only the Romeo (Akira) was killed, with the Juliet (Shizuka) left to live as a prostitute with her clan.
The subplot of Quentin Tarantino’s character (Ringo) and Akira’s Mother which entertwines with the main plot is probably the most interesting part of the movie. Everything wrapped up a little two neatly at the end, though it is by no means a fairy tale happy ending. Sukiyaki Western Django is visually stunning and the combination of action, romance, and quirky humour makes it worth a watch.