Wednesday, January 19, 2011

[DVD] Sukiyaki Western Django (2007)

Swords and Six Shooters

Trust Japanese director Takeshi Miike to dream up something as outrageously funny, wicked and dramatic such as Sukiyaki Western Django, his take on what a Japanese Western would look and feel like, encapsulating genre themes, character motivations, and action done to violent perfection. Fans of Westerns will definitely not want to miss this, just as how Thai director Wisit Sasanatieng had taken the genre and given it a Thai spin, Miike does the same for this film in a daring attempt to weave something unique into his vastly varied filmography.

Such is Miike's clout that he had gotten Quentin Tarantino to play a character with different outlooks, in an introductory scene that resembled the color saturated scenarios in Sasanatieng's Tears of the Black Tiger. This scene alone will set the tone for the film, in being amusing in the black humour sense, filled with impossible action amped up for entertainment sake, and a host of characters you'd want to know more of. Like any classic Westerns, it then progressed some years later, with a mysterious, skilled gunslinger (Hideaki Ito) riding into a town to decide to which clan should he offer his skills to, the Reds or the Whites, each needing resource to track down the location of rumoured treasure in the land.

It's like the good the bad and the ugly, where the only good guy you know is the skilled gunslinger, with his introduction already showcasing what he's capable of. We learn more about the backstories of both clans and their leaders, and from then on the gunslinger's allegiance turn to focus on Shizuka (Yoshino Kimura) the widow, the daughter in law of Ruriko (Kaori Momoi) where the latter turns out to be more than who she's willing to tell. Taking an interest, the Gunslinger hatches a quick plot to rid the land of its scourge, which culminates in a crazy all out gun battle where winner takes all.

The cast is filled with recognizable faces from contemporary Japanese cinema, where besides those already mentioned, Teruyuki Kagawa stars as the irreverent Sheriff who has his own agenda, and I'm sure is in a role that's quite unreal as the character who just refuses to die. Yoshino Kimura also deserves special mention in her role as the temptress out for revenge but not sure how, and has this really strange dance to perform midway through the film. Hideaki Ito oozes machismo as the classic hero who talks less and lets his skills impose his will, and just about everyone puts in double the effort to ensure that their English enunciation is as perfect as can be, with the benchmark I used was whether they were comprehensible even with the subtitles turned off.

It's pretty violent but in the cartoony sort of way, heavily relying on special and practical effects to make you feel every bullet spinning in the air, every round that impacts the body, and the aftermath damage caused, which I mentioned hovers in quite an unreal manner which is likely played out just for laughs. Action is carefully crafted to avoid repetition, though with what's inherent with the genre you do occasionally feel for anyone to dispatch another with less theatrics. But this is Sukiyaki Western Django, and part of the fun is to see how the tried and tested formula got spun on its head. Not quite memorable, but a fun ride nonetheless.

The Region 1 DVD from First Look Studios autoplays with Previews (6:30) for Transsiberian, War, Inc., August, and Priceless. The film proper is presented in an anamorphic widescreen format, with audio available in English 5.1 Dolby Digital which is great to hear bullets zipping by, or in Stereo form. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish, and scene selection is over 12 chapters.

The main Special Feature of this DVD is the Making of Featurette, which runs 52:37 in letterbox format, filled with tremendous content that serves as a video log of production from the very first day. Expect the usual interviews and behind the scenes look at how the film was made, though you have to avoid this until you've seen the main feature proper since it's obvious it contains spoilers. One of the highlights must of course be how the cast had to tackle the English language since they have to be proficient in it.

The Deleted Scenes (6:37) contain six such scenes which got left out from the final cut, though no reason through commentary was available. Scenes last a few seconds to minutes, in varying degrees of completion. Sukiyaki Trailers is just that, containing the Sizzle Reel (3:12), the Theatrical Trailer (1:58) and two Selected Clips which are the effects laden ones that show the Stomach Hole and the Sword Clap scenes.

Rounding up the Special Features are the same Previews that got autoplayed when the disc is popped into the player, with the addition of the trailer for Contract Killers.

This Sukiyaki Western Django DVD is available for loan at the library@esplanade.

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