The appearance of like-minded Quentin Tarantino in one-man shock-schlock factory Takashi Miike’s English language debut, Sukiyaki Western Django, is, like everything else about his latest exercise in unfiltered genre fuckery, an overdetermined gesture. This over-the-top Far East riff on over-the-top spoofs of already over-the-top Spaghetti Westerns succeeds only because Miike’s superior realization saves what would have otherwise been another smug head lodged irretrievably up its own posterior.
In the first place, Miike makes a host of bad directorial decisions, the most egregious being having his Japanese cast speak entirely in English. It’s a purely conceptual contrivance foregrounding the absurd quality of Western chestnuts by forcing heavily accented actors to intone lines like “So that old granny was ‘Bloody’ Benten, eh?” but the meta-joke comes at the great expense of narrative intelligibility. And like so many Miike films, Django is about half an hour too long, full to bursting with extraneous, unfunny subplots and characters, including a dopey sheriff possessing multiple personalities and a Shakespeare-obsessed gang leader with a Henry VI complex.
Yet Django’s Kurosawa/Leone-influenced story about an avenging lone gunman (Hikeaki Ito) manipulating a mining town’s turf war between the white-clad Genjis and the red-donning Heikes — fighting with samurai swords, crossbows, hand-cranked machine guns and Looney Tunes physics — takes on a grandeur its self-satisfied silliness often shouldn’t afford, by virtue of the gorgeous audacity and artificiality of Miike’s compositions. Backdrops of candy-colored sunsets and out-of-nowhere snow descending on a desolate graveyard impart a majesty only feigned at by lesser homages like Tears of the Black Tiger. So even when trying too hard to live up to his outrageous reputation, Miike winds up producing a decent piece of po-mo entertainment.
Opens August 29