directed by Takashi Miike. Starring Hideaki Ito, Masanobu Ando, Koichi Sato, Teruyuki Kagawa, Kaori Momoi, and Quentin Tarantino as Ringo
When I first heard that a remake of Sergio Corbucci's Django was to be helmed by cult Japanese film director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, One Missed Call), I was not entirely sure how it would relate or compare to the original. Also knowing it was to be set in the future, I was not sure of the look and feel of it. Was it going to be a western? Would it have crazy gun battles? Well, enough about my speculations on how this movie would look or feel and let's dive into this one.
Several hundred years after the battle of Dannoura, a lone gunman (Hideaki Ito) comes to a town that is believed to have buried treasure near it. The problem is two warring clans, the Genji (led by Masanobu Ando [Battle Royale]) and Heiki (led by Koichi Sato), have taken over the town. They have terrorized everyone causing problems for those who have decided to stay, while most leave their homes. Even the sheriff (Teruyuki Kagawa) is forced into the ranks of the Heiki. Both clans attempt to woo the gunman to join them but guess what - he opts to join neither group... saw that one coming didn't ya? After this several scenes are devoted to the background of the townsfolk and how they had to adapt to the Heiki and then Genji invaders.
While the gunman woos a woman in service to the Genji (who is secretly plotting to take them out as well), they have set out to obtain a super weapon to wipe out the Heiki. But when he tries to save her from the Genji. he gets roughed up and badly beaten. Thankfully her mother-in-law (Kaori Momoi) is the infamous gunslinger “Bloody Benton”, who saves her grandson and the gunman. Having nursed him back to health she sends for assistance from Ringo (Quentin Tarantino) who trained her, years before. Revitalized, the gunman teams up with Double B and they decide once and for all to end the reign of terror. And what a bloody violent ending it is, as no quarter is shown to their enemies.
With this movie has the genre appears to have come full circle. Leone's A Fistful of Dollars was a remake of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (which is referenced here, as well) and reworked the landscape of the western portraying the samurai as the gunfighter. Here the lines between samurai movie and spaghetti western twist and blend together. Even Shakespeare is thrown into the mix (as it was done in samurai and spaghetti westerns in the past) involving Henry VI and the War of the Roses. The film is done pretty straightforward with some interesting visuals; the intro scene involving American director Quentin Tarantino in a small role looked cool with a painted background with sun and a mountain:
There was a small amount of animation as well, which worked well without being a distraction (it was not the usual Anime or CGI crap that bores me). Miike references several Spaghetti westerns: The opening scene from A Fistful of Dollars, a scene from For a Few Dollars More involving saddlebags and rifles, and several parts from Django (of course, this was a remake). The dirty look of the original was there right down to the desolate rundown cemetery. There were a few scenes that cracked me up, one involving a katana sword and hands clapping and several scenes with the sheriff as he moves into madness. His character became more insane as the movie progressed and he carried the movie through the middle scenes (he reminded me of Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles when he acted schizophrenic). Also, kudos for remaking the Django theme as the end credits play.
The only downside to the movie was the English spoken by 3/4 of the cast which was difficult to understand. Thankfully, most of the main characters' English was understandable and did not take away from my viewing pleasure. If you are looking for a different action movie instead of the same old stale Hollywood shit, check out Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django I know I'll revisit it again real soon.