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Sukiyaki Western Django (MVD)
Another in a long line of genre crossing pictures from Japanese director extraordinaire Takashi Miike, 2007's Sukiyaki Western Django is a hyper-stylish mix of traditional Spaghetti Western ideals and odd action movies clichés. Like his Masters Of Horror entry, Imprint, Miike shot this film with a Japanese cast speaking their lines in English, which adds a rather surreal layer to the picture as you can't help but wonder how many of the performers actually understand what they're saying versus those who are simply speaking phonetically.
Borrowing quite a bit from A Fistful Of Dollars and Yojimbo, the film follows a ‘man with no name' (Hideaki Ito) who wanders into a town torn apart by two warring factions: the Haike clan (who wear rad as the fascists did in Sergio Corbucci's original 1966 classic spaghetti western, Django) who are led by an ill-tempered Taira no Kiyomori (Koichi Sato), and the white clad Genjo clan who are led by the flamboyant Minamoto no Yoshitsune (Yusuke Iseya). Does the stranger choose sides in the conflict or play them against one another?
With references to the films of Leone and Corbucci (not only in the title but in the story and some of the imagery) as well as those of Kurosawa, Miike is obviously having a good time playing genre DJ here, mixing westerns with samurai films and throwing in some musical nodes and a bit of anime now and again to keep things interesting. The film plays out in a world of strange colors and characters. While the outfits and settings are pure western in look and feel, the staging, the hair styles, the mannerisms and the dialogue are all over the place and sometimes look like they belong more in a glam rock video than an action film. Oh, and Quentin Tarantino shows up too. You could argue that it is a bit of novelty casting, putting him in this picture, and you wouldn't be wrong, but at least he's amusing in his quirky supporting role.
As screwy as the film is (and it gets plenty screwy, something that Miike has always had a serious knack for), Sukiyaki Western Django does not waste any time and the film plays out with an admitable leanness that lends itself well to the cross-genre bending storyline. The color timing in the film almost infers that the picture is playing out on another planet all together while the over exaggerated violence of the shoot outs and the fight scenes do not exactly add to the realism factor. But this is Miike we are talking about, doing what Miike does best. It is a film sure to piss off those looking for a traditional spaghetti western though it sets up Corbucci's masterpiece in an interesting way. Ultimately, Sukiyaki Western Django is pure pop art poured from the blender that is Miike''s mind and shaken around in a crazy cinematic cocktail glass. It's a strange film, but an entertaining enough picture if judged on its own merits and not compared to the film's that influenced it or that it borrows from.
Sukiyaki Western Django comes to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and taking up 22.6GBs of space on the 50GB disc. As was mentioned, this is a funky looking film and there's been a lot of screwing around with the color palette of the production so you can't expect accurate looking colors here and some of the digital manipulation does mess with some of the detail. What this means is that this disc provides us with a well authored transfer of some rather unusual looking source material. The film looks bleached out and oversaturated at times and flesh tones sometimes have an orange-ish hue to them. That said, the film does look like it's supposed to look and there's generally very solid depth, detail and texture on display here. There aren't any problems with compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement nor are there any problems with noise reduction. In the end, this is a weird looking movie that looks appropriately weird on this Blu-ray release.
The soundtrack is provided in your choice of 16-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 16-bit LPCM 2.0 mixes in English, with optional English or Spanish subtitles. The 5.1 mix is pretty solid, providing some nice directionality to the effects and the score and occasionally to the dialogue as well, though most of that stays up front. The track is clean, clear and nicely balanced and free of any hiss or distortion of any kind.
The main extra on the disc is the inclusion of the Extended Cut of the film, which runs 2:00:19 versus the theatrical version at 1:38:43. This version of the movie gets only an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix, with removable subtitles offered up only in Japanese. This transfer is also presented in AVC encode 1080p high definition in 2.35.1 widescreen, and it gets 24GBs of space on the disc. Picture quality doesn't really seem to differ much between the two versions.
Carried over from the older Blu-ray release is a fifty-three-minute making of featurette that includes a wealth of behind the scenes and on set footage that shows us what it was like on set. Miike shows up and talks about his motives for making the picture and about the type of mood he was trying to create and we get a look at some of the key scenes being filmed, some of the storyboards created for the movie, and some of the stunts that were performed for the film.
The disc also includes seven-minutes of Deleted Scenes, a three-minute Sizzle Reel (which feels like a trailer), three-minutes of Promotional Clips, a few TV spots, both U.S. and Japanese theatrical trailers, trailers for a few other MVD Blu-ray releases, menus and chapter selection. As to the packaging, we get a slipcover and a cool reversible cover sleeve insert.
Not so much a remake as it is a screwball prequel, Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django is a flawed but interesting idea that overdoes the visuals but ultimately delivers a pretty freaky story of sun-baked violence. Is it perfect? Nope, but it's fun and MVD's Blu-ray release looks and sounds very good and contains some solid supplements as well. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.