The only thing more disappointing then finding a movie you looked forward to to suck ass is when everyone involved should have been able to do it right. I’ve barely made a dent in Takashi Miike’s incredible film catalog myself, but he’s the favorite director of Funeral (see: The Red Jellyfish) and the movies I’ve seen by him (Gozu, Visitor Q, and Dead or Alive) were quite good, and Gozu is easily one of my alltime favorites. For those who don’t know about Miike, he is known as being one of the most ‘untamed’ directors around, and his movies always contain insanely bizzare happenings, tons of gore and sex, and after watching them, you’ll never be able to forget them. If you haven’t seen a Miike flick, you haven’t seen anything yet.
One of Miike’s specialties is the splatterhouse genre, so he’s more than accustomed to filling his movies with boatloads of cheese. Most of these kind of films use the corny-ness to their advantage so that they can make a fun, crazy, hilarious, and often ‘awesomely bad’ experience. Everything about Sukiyaki Western Django pointed to another one of these kind of films. For starters, it is the ‘world’s first Japanese Western’. The story takes it’s cue from the old spaghetti westerns, and features an ensemble cast. Among that cast happens to be the biggest fan of cheesy Japanese films, Quentin Tarantino himself. If this doesn’t sound weird enough already, the entire movie is done… in English. No, not dubs. The actors all speak in hideous broken English through THE WHOLE MOVIE.
With Miike at the helm, the above all sounded like a perfect film – funeral and I were quite excited about it. However, very unfortunately, this movie was ASS. I’m really not even sure where to start – it’s one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a while. And I am not saying ‘awesomely bad’ like Machine Girl or some other Miike films, this was just fucking terrible. I don’t really want to complain about the broken English, but admittedly there were a handful of lines (and several whole characters) who I just couldn’t fucking understand. The dialog itself, from what I gathered, was a major failed attempt. Most of the lines (that are intelligible) are meant to be corny or otherwise referencing spaghetti westerns, but too much of it fell directly on it’s face. There was a running gag about one of the characters beating up his henchmen because they kept forgetting he wanted to be known as ‘Henry’ after reading Henry the 6th, but it was hard to figure out why he was reading it or why he’d take henry as his name, and it certainly wasn’t funny.
The biggest issue in this movie, though was definitely Miike’s fucking directing, which is what makes things even sadder. Now, Miike has never been known for any brevity in his films. It’s pretty common for most of the film to be SLOOOOOOOW (though the beginnings and endings are always fast-paced insanity) and a lot of shots seem dragged way out. However, he doesn’t always make slow films (Visitor Q was pretty consistently active) and even when he does they are often entertaining (Gozu was slow but never felt boring). The trouble here is, though, that you can’t make a goofy, fun, crazy western film totally long, dragged out, and unnecessary. This film had pointlessly long scenes, scenes without purpose, needless inclusion of random plot elements, overly long yet unfunny jokes, and very little action to speak of. All the worst things for an action film, especailly one where most of the dialog is impossible to understand.
Sadder still is that there were certain ‘YES’ moments in this film. Right at the beginning, Tarantino is in a ranch that is essentially a small plot of dirt before a blatantly fake background. He takes out a couple guys, and one of them has a blood splatter which smacks against the fake background. There are a couple of jokes that actually do work, some silly or ridiculous moments, and the usual inherent badassery in these films such as shooting arrows out of midair or use of a large gattling gun. The last fight scene was pretty good, though I’ve never been a fan of the spaghetti western fight where it’s just shooting a bunch of guys out of various places. Other great moments include an amazing camera trick when the main character jumps out a window onto his horse and a brief animation leading into a cool, cheesy, Kill Bill-esque character introduction. However, as totally fucking awesome as those bits were, they didn’t even remotely save this shit-sandwich of a production. I’m surprised I was able to sit through the whole thing (I almost passed out several times) and I definitely wouldn’t sit through it again. It just goes to show that sometimes great directors, even while in their prime, can put out a total fuckup (caughmoonphasecaugh).