The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: First Look Studios - 2007
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 98 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-25
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Hideaki Ito, Koichi Sato, Yusuke Iseya, Masanobu Ando, Quentin Tarantino
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Music by: Koji Endo
Written by: Masaru Nakamura & Takashi Miike
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: November 11, 2008
"An epic tale of blood, lust, and greed"
Famed Japanese auteur Takashi Miike, best known for cult classics Audition, Ichi the Killer, and The City of Lost Souls, redefines the spaghetti Western with Sukiyaki Western Django, a tale written in blood. Two clans, the white, Genji clan, led by Yo****sune, and the red, Heike clan, led by Kiyomori, battle for a legendary treasure hidden in a desolate mountain town. One day, a lone gunman, burdened with deep emotional scars but blessed with incredible shooting skills, drifts into town. Two clans try to woo the lone gunman to their side, but he has ulterior motives. Dirty tricks, betrayal, desire and love collide as the situation erupts into a final, explosive showdown. Quentin Tarantino also stars.
This was an interesting take on several genres. It paid homage to the Spaghetti Western, it lightly touched upon Tarantino's Kill Bill, and lastly Eastwood as the man with no name Westerns. It is not a very complex story but I think at times it becomes more involved than need be. The premise surrounds a small western town that has struck gold and has been invaded by a band of criminals known as the Heike. The leader desperately wants the treasure however the locals have hidden it. He and his gang either kill or drive away most of the locals and begin searching for the gold. They force the town sheriff to join their group and they hold sway over the town until the appearance of the Genji. The Genji are a similar band of outlaws who are lead by a master swordsman who is just as adept with a pistol. The two groups are identified by the color of their wardrobe with the Heike wearing crimson and the Genji wearing white. A lone gunman comes to town and immediately displays his prowess with a pistol which each of the warring factions would like to have in their camp. He turns down their offers and decides to liberate the remaining town's people and get them out from under the boot of the two gangs.
I don't know, there were some aspects of this film that I liked, there were some I didn't, and there were some that I didn't understand. I thought that the western style shootouts were fine and I thought that the light mixture of martial arts and sword play was original. The gunman, the leader of the Genji, and a woman know as the Benkei were by far the most interesting characters. Very little background was provided on any of them other than some flashbacks which were far from helpful in understanding their motivation. The gunman came from a tragic past (based upon a quick look) and The Benkei was somewhat of a legend that was trained by a cowboy named Ringo played by Quentin Tarantino. He was only in a couple of scenes thankfully. The town sheriff seemed to suffer from multiple personality disorder and his opposite personality had an agenda that had something to do with The Benkei but it is never explained. There is a strange monk (?) who lives in the mountains nearby who also has a role that is never really explained. The last piece is a woman who has become the Genji whore but only to protect the only person left in her life (I won't say who). There is a little more to it but nothing significant. Things play out over the course of the film and ends up as most films like this do with plenty of bloodshed and some heartache. I don't think it would be fair to say that I didn't like Sukiyaki Western: Django because that wouldn't be true. I think if had stuck more to focusing on the potential of the three characters mentioned and built the story around how/why they are drawn into this circle it could have been better. As it is there was enough to keep it interesting and I will re-visit it when I get the chance.
The rating is for strong violence including a rape scene.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Sukiyaki Western Django comes to Blu-ray Disc from First Look Studios featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 18 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 3.8 mbps.
This video presentation used a variety of intentional visual styles to relay the director's vision. Several sequences use a very dynamic contrast set against a faded and grainy chromatic backdrop with one or two highly saturated colors that stand out in stark opposition to the other elements within the shot. This usually comes during the flashback sequences. It's used similarly but to a lesser extent in the film's opening and a later flashback that takes place during the same time frame. During the remainder of the film grain is less prominent, contrast remains elevated (but to a lesser degree), and colors are rendered with deep emphasis on primaries (especially red) and are used to augment certain aspects of the story. Whites are detailed with bright highlights and blacks are fairly deep with acceptable gradational quality in shadows and darkened areas. Images are cleanly rendered with very good to excellent detail that is easily discernible in close ups and mid-level distant camera shots. Objects within backgrounds during long range visuals aren't definitively resolved which made some wide angle camera shots appear less dimensional. The video isn't razor sharp, but in all but a few instances, it consistently had defining structure and appreciable clarity.
The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was quite good and featured an active surround mix with punchy, dynamic highlights. The sound design is intended to be overstated in its delivery of sound effects like gunshots, landing punches, and thundering horses. Ample bass weight is attached to the associated sounds mentioned although it is applied without seeming excessive. The big ticket bass reproducing items such as a rapid fire Gatling gun, exploding dynamite, and building leveling detonation had excellent solidity and room penetrating resonance. Front and rear stage panning sequences were seamlessly blended as different sounds traversed the room. There is a scene where the leader of the Whites stands on a hill and fires his gun at the leader of the Reds. He adjusts the trajectory to account for the wind and fires. The bullet travels from the left surround, to the left front and strikes its target in the center channel. This occurs with pinpoint precision as it follows the onscreen action. On the other hand I noticed that the surrounds were mixed a half a decibel hotter during some of the gunfire exchanges. This was clearly done intentionally to heighten the strength of the impact as it was spread to the rear channels. I found it distracting on occasion but liked the effect. High level detail and clarity and help to bring out the small sonic details located with the background. Dialogue was properly balanced within the front soundstage and it was clear and concise. The problem I had was that due to the actors accents (they spoke English) I couldn't always understand what they were saying. This is certainly not an encoding problem but it was still distracting. I really enjoyed the audio presentation otherwise.
- 6 Deleted scenes
- The making of Sukiyaki Western Django - 52 minute featurette (English subtitles)
- BD-Live enabled
- Digital Copy - Bonus disc that includes a standard definition version of the movie that can be downloaded from a compatible PC to a portable playback device
Sukiyaki Western: Django seems to be a film that would have benefited from direction that was more clearly focused. It wanted to be several things which took it off in various directions that were never fully realized. It does have something to offer though and in the end I didn't feel completely dissatisfied with it. First Look Studios has brought it to high definition Blu-ray Disc featuring a stylized audio/video presentation that, while different, is still very good. I can't promise that it's the type of film that will appeal to the masses but I think it is certainly worth a rental.
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